Monday, January 25, 2010

FRA fills key rail safety post

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A civil engineer with an extensive railroad engineering background is the Federal Railroad Administration's new deputy associate administrator for safety, regulatory and legislative affairs. Dr. Magdy El-Sibaie succeeds Grady Cothen in the post, following an extensive nationwide search to fill the position. Cothen announced his retirement in late 2009, but is remaining at the FRA through March to assist El-Sibaie in the transition.

Most recently, El-Sibaie was acting associate administrator for hazardous materials safety at DOT's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. Until October 2009, he was the FRA's director of research and development, following a successful tenure as the agency's chief of track research, where he managed the FRA's track inspection technology development program that created improved systems for measuring track geometry at high speeds.

El-Sibaie earned a doctorate in engineering mechanics from the University of Delaware in 1986, and was recruited by the Association of American Railroads as a researcher at the industry's Chicago Technical Center, where he is credited with pioneering new methods of computer modeling to measure the dynamic behavior of track under varying loads, speeds and conditions. For that work, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers honored him in 1980 with its Rail Transportation Award.

In 1989, he was reassigned by the AAR to its Transportation Test Center in Pueblo, Colo., where he worked on vehicle/track interaction modeling and testing, in-train stability and wheel-load dynamics. He returned to the Chicago Test Center in 1993 to lead the AAR's track assessment and test program.

El-Sibaie joined the FRA in 1995 as a senior program manager in the Office of Research and Development, chairing a government-industry working group that formulated the first set of safety standards for U.S. high-speed rail service. He also worked with rail suppliers and Amtrak to establish standards for Amtrak's high-speed Acela trains operating on the Northeast Corridor.

As deputy associate administrator for safety, regulatory and legislative affairs, El-Sibaie will lead FRA initiatives that develop and implement industry safety regulatory strategy. These efforts include leading the Rail Safety Advisory Committee in studying emerging safety issues, including the incorporation of new technology into the rail environment, as well as risk reduction strategies and close-call reporting.

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