December 2020 NRC Bulletin
December 31, 2020
NRC Updates and Announcements
NRC FirstLook 2021 begins January 6th, REGISTER TODAY!

On January 6, 2021 at 2:00pm ET, Mr. James A. Squires, Chairman and CEO of Norfolk Southern Corp., will be the featured keynote executive for the Fireside Chat webcast hosted by NRC Chairman Jim Hansen, Chief Commercial Officer at Herzog, and NRC Vice Chairman Steve Bolte, Vice President of Business Development North America at Danella. This event will kick-off a month full of informative panels; please click here for the complete NRC FirstLook 2021 program and agenda.

In addition, we are thrilled to share that more panelists have been confirmed, including representatives from all seven of the Class I railroads for our finale webcast titled Class 1 Capital Program and Opportunities for Contractors and Suppliers Panel. All of this is possible thanks to the NRC FirstLook 2021 sponsors; to see a list of our sponsors please click here.

NRC FirstLook 2021 Registration:
To register, please click here. You will have the opportunity to register for individual events or take advantage of the discounted bundle price for all four events if you’re an NRC member. Not a member and want to join to get the discounted bundle, access to early booth registration for the 2022 conference, and more? Join now by clicking here. For more information on NRC FirstLook 2021, please visit:

For questions regarding the agenda, registration, sponsorships, the awards or anything else please reach out to NRC staff at or by phone at 202-975-0365.

SCAM ALERT: We ask FirstLook 2021 attendees to be vigilant of scams including any solicitations via email that offer hotel deals or FirstLook 2021 registration lists on behalf of the NRC. These groups are not affiliated with the NRC. Please check the NRC website or contact staff directly for the most up-to-date conference information. 
Congress passes and Trump signs FY21 Omnibus Appropriations/COVID-19 relief/tax legislation package

Just before the Christmas holiday, Congress agreed to an omnibus appropriations, which included a fourth COVID-19 relief bill. President Trump signed the bill into law on December 27.

FY2021 Appropriations – $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations bill overall, see below for funding levels for FY2021 Transportation-HUD:
COVID relief bill:
$900 billion relief bill passed on December 21, 2020. The bill includes $284 billion to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program and $45 billion in transportation aid, including $14 billion for transit, $10 billion for State DOTs, and $1 billion for Amtrak. The bill does not include additional funding to state and local governments, however the bill provides state and local governments with an extension to spend funding they received under the CARES Act to the new deadline of December 31, 2021. See bill text here and summary here.

Tax extenders:
Finally, in the tax legislation portion of HR 133, the 45G short line railroad tax credit was made permanent. The credit would remain at the current $3,500/per mile limit indefinitely without an expiration date. The current 50% rate of the credit remains intact for tax years 2020, 2021, and 2022, and then it adjusts to 40% beginning in 2023.

Please make sure to check the NRC COVID-19 page for additional details and resources on the entire bill along, featuring a thorough recap of the stimulus packages passed this year.
Railroads Meet PTC Deadline
On December 29, two days before the implementation deadline, FRA announced Positive Train Control (PTC) was in operation on all required route miles on all railroads. This is the culmination of over a decade's worth of work in getting the safety technology installed on railroads that had long sought to delay making the massive financial investment it required.

PTC is operable on 57,536 required freight and passenger railroad route miles, and each host railroad’s PTC system complies with the technical requirements and interoperability needs to prevent collisions and derailments. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao called the milestone “a tremendous accomplishment.”
Biden to nominate Buttigieg as transportation secretary

On December 16, President-elect Joe Biden announced that he intends to nominate Pete Buttigieg to serve as the 19th U.S. secretary of transportation. The 2020 Democratic presidential candidate is the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana. Buttigieg served as South Bend's mayor for eight years and helped revitalize the city that had been struggling since the collapse of the auto company Studebaker.

Biden officials credited his "Smart Streets" initiative that turned downtown South Bend around and mentioned that the redesigning of the street helped spur economic investment. "This is a moment of tremendous opportunity - to create jobs, meet the climate challenge, and enhance equity for all," tweeted Buttigieg.
FRA Issues Final Rule on Brake System Safety Standards

On December 11, the Federal Railroad Administration issued a final rule revising its regulations governing brake inspections, tests, and equipment. The changes include incorporation of relief from various provisions provided in long-standing waivers related to single car air brake tests, end-of-train devices, and helper service, and brake maintenance. The rule also changes the amount of time freight rail equipment can be left with its air brake system depressurized before requiring a new brake inspection.

FRA Administrator Ron Batory said that by using waivers to test these practices, the agency was able to verify the safety benefits. "Modernizations no longer has to happen by waiver; it's permanent, and the economic impact to freight rail couldn't come at a more pressing time," said Batory. To view the final rule, please click here.
Rare Amicus Brief filed over NEPA rule changes by the Trump Administration

On December 1, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, joined Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, and Congressman Raul M. Grijalva (D-AZ), Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, in submitting a rare amicus brief to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, in the case of Wild Virginia v. Council on Environmental Quality.

The three lawmakers filed the amicus brief on behalf of Members of Congress regarding the Trump administration’s revisions to National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) regulations. The amicus brief states on multiple occasions Members of Congress communicated to the administration that the legal defects of the Trump NEPA regulations fundamentally undermines NEPA's protections and should not adversely affect constituents. To read the amicus brief, please click here.
2020 NRC Scholarship winners announced

The NRC awards scholarships each year to provide higher-education tuition assistance for children or grandchildren of employees of NRC member companies. If you would like to see the official announcement, please click here.

This year's winners were:

First Place Winner Albert Hotzel of Kansas State University ($12,000) who was sponsored by Stella-Jones

Second Place Winner - Matthew Chalon of the University of Connecticut ($6,000) who was sponsored by Simmons Boardman

Third Place Winners - Andrew Ramm of Purdue University ($3,000) who was sponsored by Progress Rail Services

For questions regarding the awards or any of the applications, please reach out to NRC staff at or by phone at 202-975-0365.

On December 7, the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency Program (CREATE) partners announced late last week that CSX has selected NRC member TranSystems to provide construction management services for the Forest Hill Flyover and 71st Street grade separation projects. The projects are part of the 75th Street Corridor Improvement Project.

Having a skilled construction manager will fulfill our commitment to the community – to best mitigate impacts during construction and complete construction in a timely manner," said Tom Livingston, head of state government relations and community affairs for CSX.
NESCO to acquire Custom Truck One Source

On December 3, NRC member NESCO came to an agreement to acquire Custom Truck One Source for a purchase price of $1.475 billion. Following the close of the transaction, which is expected to occur in the first quarter of 2021, Fred Ross will become the CEO of the combined business. Until that time, both Custom One Truck Source and NESCO will operate as separate companies.

"Through this combination, we will create a leading, one-stop-shop provider of specialty rental equipment serving highly attractive and growing infrastructure end-markets – including transmission and distribution, the 5G revolution build-out and critical rail and other national infrastructure initiatives" said Ross. The combined company will employ over 1,800 people and have 46 company-operated locations around the US.
Industry News and Updates
With the Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation deadline of December 31, 2020 last week the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to revise regulations around PTC system functioning and PTC systems and reporting. FRA is proposing to revise its regulations governing changes to PTC systems and reporting on system functionality. Second, to enable more effective FRA oversight, FRA proposes to Expand an existing reporting requirement by increasing the frequency from annual to biannual, among other reporting methods. Read more on the NPRM here.

Mass Transit published an article about the benefits of contracting out on transit rail projects with input from NRC's Transit Committee. Rail infrastructure can be capital intensive to build and maintain, and with nearly half of all transit trips are taken on rail modes, the need to keep this infrastructure in top shape is vital to maintaining safety and service. To assist with this critical work, transit agencies can and do turn to rail contracting companies. "NRC members are highly motivated from both a financial and company reputation perspective to find the most innovative solutions to deliver projects for less cost without compromising safety...since our members routinely work for freight and passenger rail customers, they are able to provide expertise on the best methods, equipment and services out there in the industry,” said Matt Ginsberg, president and founder of TGA Association Management Solutions LLC, which manages the NRC.

During the first week of December, the California Transportation Commission approved $2 billion in funding for 56 new transportation projects throughout the state, including over $392.4 million to help fund 10 freight and passenger rail projects. The awards cover funding from 2020 to 2023 and are distributed through three state program: Solutions for Congested Corridors, Trade Corridor Enhancement and Local Partnership Competitive. The winning projects included Bay Area Rapid Transit's Trains Control Modernization program, the Stockton Diamond Grade Separation, and several intermodal modernization efforts.

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The NRC is a trade association representing businesses from across the nation in the rail construction and maintenance field. NRC members range in size from small family businesses to the largest companies in the industry. NRC members perform work for transit, commuter, intercity passenger, industrial, and freight rail customers, with services including track construction and maintenance, grade crossings, signal and communications installation, bridge construction and repair, rail yard work, and many more. The NRC strives to put an emphasis on rail safety and quality while proudly serving the rail industry