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By Pat Foran, Editor
For the second straight year, a representative sampling of North American freight and passenger railroads plan to spend more on infrastructure upkeep, as Managing Editor Jeff Stagl reports this month in our annual MOW Spending Report. Our 18th annual report breaks down the spending plans of 67 freight and passenger roads based on our exclusive survey and other available information. Thirty-five of 59 responding railroads that provided comparable budget figures set aside more dollars for infrastructure improvements this year, Stagl reports. Five of the seven Class Is’ MOW budgets are up, and 17 of 21 reporting passenger roads said they’re spending more this year. Which road is spending what, and on what? This year’s report data also will be available online sometime next month in the form of two eBooks: 2019 MOW Spending: Freight Rail Infrastructure Investments and 2019 MOW Spending: Transit Rail Infrastructure Investments. They’ll be accessible under “Education & Events” at progressiverailroading.com — click on the “eBook” link.
We at Progressive Railroading know Roquita Coleman Williams as a dynamic difference-maker who’s all about the deep dive. She recently shared with me a bit of insight into a plunge she took earlier this year. CN’s supply chain solutions manager, Coleman Williams delivered a TEDx Memphis talk on building an inclusive organizational culture in a “male-dominated industry through determination, grit and tough-mindedness,” as she put it. Titled “How Determination Saved Me and How it Can Change the World,” her talk was posted March 6 on YouTube. Since October 2016, Coleman Williams — a 2014 Progressive Railroading Rising Star — has been certified to manage the mechanical operation of freight trains moving on a U.S. Class I. She had to demonstrate the “physical fitness to handle massive rail equipment,” which she termed in her talk as “the hardest, most hard-headed moment of my life.” She embraced the moment. “As a 22-year sales and marketing leader in domestic and international logistics, learning to operate a 200-ton locomotive in order to move the needle on this strategic business strategy was challenging, but in today’s current business environment, we need people who are empowered to do what it takes to create a sustainable competitive advantage,” she told me. Part of it was figuring out how to turn the story of negative expectations into a commitment to inclusion, she said during her talk. “For that person who feels like you don’t fit, inclusion’s a commitment to walk through every opportunity door, whether they welcome you or not,” she said. As for the “power brokers and industry influencers” who’d be doing the welcoming (or not): Inclusion is (or should be) a “commitment to go beyond tolerance to empathy for that person who has the courage to face the unfamiliar,” Coleman Williams said.