The 2013 National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Annual Conference in Florida can be marked as another success.
The 2013 National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Annual Conference offered contractors, railroaders and suppliers a chance to escape from their colder locales and venture to the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in the South Beach area of Miami, Fla., January 9-12.
The meeting provided presentations from Class 1 railroads, shortlines and transit agencies detailing their upcoming capital spending plans and opportunities for contractors, while the NRC-REMSA Exhibition offered the more than 1,000 attendees a chance to network and peruse among more than 100 exhibitors. The conference also featured a keynote address by the newly-installed chairman of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, Rep. Bill Shuster (R-PA).
"We were very pleased with the conference this year," said Chuck Baker, NRC president. "Record attendance, a packed exhibit hall, world-class speakers detailing large capital spending and expansion plans, networking events galore and four days of great weather in South Beach in January - can't ask for much better than that."
After an opening reception and welcome by Terry Benton, who entered into his second and final year as NRC Chairman, the general session kicked off with Dale Ophardt of CSX Transportation, the first of two Class 1 presenters who addressed the conference on Thursday, January 10.
After a brief description of CSX's approach to being a good corporate citizen, Ophardt detailed upcoming work and highlighted Phase 2 of the National Gateway Project, which will maximize the railroad's mid-Atlantic capacity by clearing 21 obstructions.
Following Ophardt was David Brown of Genesee & Wyoming (GWI). Brown outlined the "new G&W," which incorporates the properties recently acquired through the purchase of RailAmerica. Brown told attendees that while there are always challenges, Genesee & Wyoming and RailAmerica had more similarities than differences. GWI plans to spend approximately $100 million more on infrastructure in 2013 than it did in 2012. Why not double the 2012 numbers? Brown explained RailAmerica invested its capital well in certain properties and GWI's spending plan is geared toward generating growth.
If there was a common theme among all railroad presenters, it was a focus on working as safely as possible with a goal of zero injuries. Part of the NRC's continued commitment to safety includes the production of its series of Safety DVDs. This year, the NRC Safety Committee previewed the next two of the series titled, "Safety Around Flash Butt Welding" and "Fall Protection in the Rail Industry." There are 14 DVDs in total and all are free to NRC members.
After the DVD preview, Robert Bergen of New York City Transit and Albert Hernandez of Miami Dade Transit presented the first of the transit-specific speeches. Bergen highlighted the various construction opportunities on New York City Transit, Metro-North and Long Island Rail Road and said that at any one time, more than 200 projects could be underway. Hernandez summarized Miami Dade's projects from TriRail and Amtrak facilities to replacing rail cars to an upgrade of the agency's central control.
Next on the schedule was Keith Hartwell, president of Chambers, Conlon & Hartwell, who gave attendees a legislative update. Hartwell reported on the effect of the November election and outlined what the industry might expect from Washington, D.C., in 2013.
Canadian National's Jim McLeod wrapped up the first full day of the conference by discussing what projects CN has planned on both its Canadian and U.S. properties. He also discussed the railroad's recovery from unexpected events of the past year, such as the Fabyan Bridge derailment, flooding caused by Hurricane Isaac and a rock slide on the Ashcroft Subdivision.
The next morning, attendees who got an early start were able to take one last tour of the exhibit hall before the general session began with a presentation by BNSF's John Cech. Cech said the railroad will have a strong rail, tie and bridge program in 2013 and also gave an update on the Bakken region; an area Cech said displayed "incredible growth."
Chairmen Schuster's keynote address stressed his belief in the importance of rail. He highlighted his support of the shortline tax credit, expressed a need to improve Amtrak and said a big hurdle to the transportation bill, which expires in 2014, is figuring out how to pay for it.
Schuster also encouraged attendees to "help get the word out" regarding the industry among members of Congress saying there are "535 of us and thousands of issues, we can't be experts on all of them."
Following the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is a tough spot to be in, but Metra's Larry Huggins handled it with aplomb. Huggins said the Chicago commuter rail provider continues to work toward bringing its system to a state of good repair. Metra will proceed with work on its Union Pacific North line bridge project, which is a 10-year program to replace 22 bridges along Metra's busiest corridor.
Next, David Armstrong of Commercial Insurance Associates announced the winners of the 2012 NRC/RT&S/Commercial Insurance Associates Safe Contractor of the Year Awards (see page 39).
In addition to the four best of category winners, 45 companies were awarded gold, silver or bronze recognition for their safety efforts and two Certificates of Commendation were given.
The presentations continued with Watco's Ron Close. While tie and surface projects will be a primary focus this year, Close did say Watco's 29 railroads submitted 152 improvement projects worth approximately $21 million and outside of regular maintenance to the company's capital committee.
For the second day, the conference ended on a Canadian note with Canadian Pacific's Brent Laing discussing the "new CP" and outlining the railroad's 2013 capital plans.
The final day began with Norfolk Southern's Charlie Stine discussing 2013 maintenance opportunities on NS and touching on the Crescent Corridor work and North Carolina passenger rail projects.
Florida East Coast's Bob Stevens was next to present. Stevens said FEC is focused on its port capacity citing the expansion of the Panama Canal, which will triple the size of ships coming into the Gulf and Atlantic ports. The railroad has projects at Port Miami, Port Everglades and the Port of Palm Beach to name just a few.
Mike Reininger gave an update on All Aboard Florida's proposed Orlando to Miami passenger line before the NRC presented its 2012 Special Awards.
This year, in honor of his role as an exemplary leader and his tireless pursuit of excellence, the NRC inducted James J. (Jim) Daloisio, chairman and CEO of Railroad Construction Company of South Jersey into the Hall of Fame.
The Railroad Construction Project of the Year was awarded to the Utah Transit Authority FrontRunner South, Stacy & Witbeck/Herzog Contracting Corp. According to the NRC, the safety record, scope of the project and the cost containment measures utilized in this multiyear project are what made the project stand out.
The Field Employee of the Year was awarded to Dave Friehl, track superintendent, Herzog Contracting Corp. The NRC said Dave demonstrated outstanding expertise as a general superintendent and construction manager by coordinating closely with agencies, owners, stakeholders and subcontractors on challenging, tightly-scheduled projects, while maintaining an outstanding safety record.
After the Special Awards, Anthony Fuller and Paul Worley of the North Carolina Rail Division gave a run down of the state's rail projects, which will expand passenger capacity and involves working closely with CSX and NS to preserve freight capacity.
Kevin Hicks of Union Pacific wrapped up the Class 1 capital presentations by saying the railroad is planning a healthy bridge program, will continue to focus on growth capital and is still on target to have field infrastructure in place for the PTC implementation deadline.
Tony Hatch broke down what effect the "era of changing energy transport" has on the rail renaissance before Ken Koff of OmniTRAX gave the last of the shortline presentations with a focus on ties and bridge repair and upgrades.
Jim Carter of Norfolk Southern and current AREMA president ended the conference with a report on the engineering association's initiatives, encouraging attendance at the upcoming Railway Interchange and then, briefly outlining two of NS' bridge projects for 2013.
The next NRC Conference and Exhibition will be January 5-8, 2014, in Palm Desert, Calif.
2012 NRC special Awards
2012 Field Employee of the Year Award
Dave Friel, Track Superintendent, Herzog Contracting Corp.
2012 Rail Construction Project of the Year Award
Utah Transit Authority West FrontRunner South, Stacy & Witbeck/Herzog Contracting Corp.
NRC Hall of Fame Inductee
James J. (Jim) Daloisio, Chairman and CEO, Railroad Construction Company of South Jersey
2012 NRC/RT&S/Commercial insurance associates safety awards
Category I - 30 employees or less
Winner: Sharp & Fellows, Inc.
Gold: American Rail Marketing, LLC; Amtrac of Ohio, Inc.; Clayton Railroad Construction; CR Construction Company; East Coast Railroad Services; Railroad Construction Company of South Jersey, Inc.; Rhinehart Railroad Construction, Inc.; STX Corporation; United Signal; US Trackworks, LLC
Silver: Coleman Industrial Construction; Crafton Railroad Company, Inc.; Diamond K Services, Inc.; K.W. Reese Inc.
Category II - 31-99 employees
Winner: Mass Electric Construction Company
Gold: Balfour Beatty Rail - Gillette Division; Georgetown Rail Equipment Company; Armond Cassil Railroad Construction, Inc.; Herzog Technologies, Inc.; L.K. Comstock Naitonal Transit; Railroad Constructors, Inc.
Bronze: Armond Cassil; Fritz-Rumer-Cooke Co., Inc.; Musselman and Hall; Ragnar Benson Construction, LLC
Category III - 100-300 employees
Winner: Herzog Services, Inc.
Gold: Delta Railroad Construction; J-Track LLC; Lone Star Railroad Contractors, Inc.; Railroad Construction Company; Scott Bridge Company; Tranco Industrial Services, Inc.
Silver: Atlas Railroad Construction; Moran Environmental Recovery, LLC
Bronze: Colo Railroad Builders, LLC
Category IV - 301 or more employees
Winner: Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.
Gold: Ames Construction; Herzog Contracting Corp.; Herzog Railroad Services, Inc.; Hill Brothers Construciton; Holland L.P.; Kiewit Infrastructure West Co.; PNR RailWorks; RailWorks Track Services; RailWorks Track Systems; Stacy and Witbeck, Inc.
Silver: Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc.
Bronze: Railroad Controls Limited; Trumbull Corporation
Certificates of Commendation: Omega Rail Services, Queen City Railroad Construction and West Rail Construction