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Rail News Home Rail Industry Trends

March 2010



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

A matter-of-factly urgent 'Day' on The Hill (Pat Foran, Context, March 2010)



The conceptual climb toward Economic Recoveryville, U.S.A., could be under way: I think I heard my first "Are we there yet?" questions late last month. They were whispered and asked with eyes averted, possibly without any expectation of being answered. But the notion that things might be picking up, that there might be a reason to switch from the half-empty to the half-full camp, is out there. That said, there's at least one group that isn't wondering about ETAs or the contents of the glass: U.S. transit agency execs. Many continue to grapple with spooky budget shortfalls and even spookier fiscal projections. A number of them, including the straws now stirring the drink at MTA New York City Transit (NYCT), are simply rolling up their sleeves and trying to face the music matter of factly, as Associate Editor Angela Cotey reports in this month's cover story.

On Feb. 25, a similarly pragmatic urgency manifested itself down the road apiece from NYC as more than 600 rail leaders, listeners and lobbyists for the day participated in "Railroad Day on Capitol Hill," an annual event during which rail supporters generally aim to persuade Congress to support investment incentives and reject measures the rail lobby believes would limit railroads' ability to invest in infrastructure. Here are a few takeaways from this year's "Day":

  • Speak with one voice. Railroad Day isn't just about the freight folks (and their contractors and suppliers) any more. This year's crowd featured passenger-rail advocates (including a few of the high-speed variety), shippers, environmental groups and, once again, rail labor. "We had a brief brush with having them not participate," Association of American Railroads (AAR) Senior Vice President of Legislation Obie O'Bannon said of the latter during the Day's 7 a.m. orientation briefing. "It's great to have them back."
  • Get to the point. Small talk wasn't on the agenda during the eight legislative visits I sat in on. Moreso than in each of the past few years that I've been coming to Railroad Day, staffers and (even) legislators cut to the chase, and expected the rail lobbyists to do the same. Actually, they now expect more: They want the rail group not only to alert them to the issues/legislation that matter most but to analyze those issues constructively and concisely. For the most part, the railroaders doing the articulating that I heard were up to the task.
  • Tangibles resonate. News that staffers and legislators can use is always welcome during these visits. This year, word that railroads now can move one ton of freight an average of 457 miles per gallon of fuel (up from 436) elicited nods that weren't merely polite. But given that "jobs" was The Word of The Day on Feb. 25, this tidbit — that each freight-rail job supports 4.5 additional jobs in such fields as construction, manufacturing and retail — prompted discussion in six of the sessions I sat in on.
  • Words (still) matter. Thanks to a concerted effort by the rail lobby, it appears the constructive conversation era in D.C. with respect to rail matters is alive and relatively well, if not yet in full swing. Uncertainty on the economic, regulatory, legislative and political fronts very well could prompt the debate on key issues (namely, balanced competition) to devolve to saber-rattling rhetoric, but it didn't on Feb. 25. And that's a good thing.

 

In memoriam: Our friend Joe Silverio

Last month, longtime rail supply industry executive Joe Silverio died following a battle with cancer. He was 61. Silverio most recently served as senior marketing manager with American Railcar Industries Inc. in St. Charles, Mo. He also was an adjunct professor of marketing at Lindenwood University in St. Charles. And he was a friend.

I met Joe at one of the September rail shows in the late 1990s and got to know him during a couple of the early RailtecMéxico shows in Monterrey. Pretty much from then on, I became accustomed to listening for (and leaning on) his big, infectious laugh, and his love of family (his own, mine — yours, if you knew him) and baseball (the Red Sox and the Redbirds). We kept in touch during the past decade, although never enough to our liking.

We didn't connect this past holiday season the way we usually did for an annual survey Progressive Railroading conducts, but I didn't think too much of it. Even so, talking with Joe was always a high point of whatever day we happened to hook up, so I missed hearing his voice and that laugh. When a colleague called to tell me late last month that Joe had passed, and rather suddenly, on Feb. 20, the news hit hard.

All of us at Progressive Railroading were fortunate to know Joe and count him as a friend. We miss him already. Our thoughts are with the family he held so dear. Memorials may be made to the American Cancer Society or Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation in honor of Joe's grandson, brother-in-law and nephew.

 



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Browse articles on Railroad Day Railroad Day on the Hill STB reauthorization NYCT New York City Transit Joe Silverio American Railcar Industries ARI

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