NRC column: NRC is the ultimate bridge builder

Written by RT&S Staff
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National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association Chairman Steve Bolte.

Rail bridges are extraordinary works of wonder.

I am in awe of them. But compared to the highly skilled bridge experts who work for NRC member contractors, I can’t fully appreciate the design, materials, and labor engineered into the 100,000 rail bridges in operation across the U.S.

These qualified and experienced experts collaborate with railroads and the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to inspect, maintain, and construct rail bridges of all types and sizes and in all environments. Their work ensures that rail bridges provide safe and secure connections for freight and passenger trains traveling across rivers, gorges, and ravines as well as cities, roadways, and industrial developments.

It is difficult and amazing work. And it’s no wonder the NRC has often recognized contractors who complete complex bridge projects with its annual Project of the Year award. While I don’t have that type of bridge expertise, I’ve learned a lot about building bridges through my association with the NRC.

Like rail bridges, the NRC’s fundamental role is to provide valuable connections. The association has a well-earned reputation for facilitating countless opportunities to connect members with other industry influencers, including railway engineering and operating professionals, elected and public officials, government regulators, and other rail associations and groups.

NRC advocacy connections, where staff and members represent the interests of contractors and suppliers before Congress and with federal agencies, have a solid record of making our industry safer and stronger. Railroad Day on Capitol Hill, grassroots events, and other lobbying activities give elected officials the chance to meet with industry professionals and gain firsthand knowledge about the work we perform.

The NRC and its members have proven to be respected resources in legislative matters involving rail. That is the result of years of relationship building with Congress, their staffs, government officials, and regulators. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) signed into law last November is a recent example. The NRC gave input on this important legislation that will generate historic funding for rail projects. These efforts truly provide a bridge for our industry to the future.

NRC-sponsored events provide opportunities to connect with and learn from others. Our annual conference and exhibition, held each January, is the industry’s premier event to network and learn about the capital plans for Class 1, short line, and transit railways. The NRC’s annual railroad equipment auction follows each spring. In addition to connecting sellers and buyers, the auction generates funds to develop safety training resources for member contractors, including a member-only portal with toolbox talks, manuals, videos, and FRA training standards templates.

The NRC also serves as a bridge for the next generation. Its annual Scholarship Program awards higher-education tuition assistance for children and grandchildren of member company employees. Through the annual Education Grant Program—open to U.S. colleges, universities, or technical schools with a railway construction, railway engineering, or construction management program—the NRC is supporting education and research efforts while attracting promising young people to our industry.

Take it from me, the vital connections built through the NRC are as plentiful, valuable, and enduring as the rail bridges across our nation.

Building a safer and stronger railway construction industry together.

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