$2.1M in DOD Grant Funding for CEE Team

The Department of Defense will have the help of CEE researchers to develop better systems to evaluate the structural health of rail lines and modernize pavement design and evaluation procedures in a new project funded by the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) and led by Applied Research Associates Inc. CEE Professors Erol Tutumluer and Riley Edwards are leading the work for this multi-year research project called Advancing Power Projection through Lines of Communication (APPLoC). In the first year, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering will receive $2.1 million in grant funding.

As a whole, the research efforts will specifically address the military engineering focus area of Infrastructure maintenance, repair and reconstruction technologies. Two major tasks that CEE department researchers will be involved in are the development of a rail structural capacity rating for DOD and the development of Joint Evaluation and Design Integrated (JEDI) Solution software tools for designing new and rehabilitated pavements for DOD. APPLoC will also develop and deliver innovative prototype solutions to rapidly assess the condition of existing infrastructure and support the rapid repair of damaged infrastructure such as pavements, bridges and railways.

To watch a news interview with Riley and RailTEC’s Principal Researcher Marcus Dersh click here. To read CEE’s announcement click here.

RREC in RT&S, Abstracts Open



In the January 2023 issue of Railway Track & Structure (RT&S) magazine,  AREMA  President Trent M. Hudak wrote in his monthly Message From The President column about his experience attending his first Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC). He gave a glowing review of the conference complementing both the high quality program and presentations as well as the networking opportunities among railroad professionals.  Click here to read the article.

Consider attending the next conference which will be held 14-15 November 2023 on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The 25th RREC will feature presentations by railroaders, consulting engineers, academics and others involved in all aspects of railroad environmental topics.  The call for abstracts is open and those submitted by Monday, 20 March will be considered for the 2023 Program. Presentation topics are:

  • Compliance for Operating Facilities
  • Environmental Management Systems
  • Environmental Permitting and Planning
  • Incident Management
  • Remediation
  • Sustainability and Resilience
  • Wastewater Management

Click here to submit an abstract or here to learn more about the conference.

Registration Open for 2023 Summer High School Program

Building on the success of last year’s Tracks to the Future: Railroad Transportation and Engineering summer camp, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funding an even bigger program this year. Six universities (Michigan Tech, Penn State Altoona, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of South Carolina, the University of New Mexico, and California State University, Fresno) are working together to offer up to 120 high school students across the U.S. an exciting opportunity in rail. Learn what forms modern railroad track, explore railway equipment from around the globe, and analyze the latest operations, communication and control systems. Find out how it all works through virtual sessions, hands-on activities, and field visits to railroad facilities.

All applicants accepted for the program will receive scholarships that cover the program fees, so don’t wait, encourage your favorite student to get an application in today! Campers are responsible for their own travel expenses to and from their assigned campus host.  Similar to last year, all students will participate in a Hybrid Program that combines a virtual portion (at home) with a two-day visit to one of the three partnering campuses (max. 20 on each campus).  There will be two sessions this year.  The first, from 19-23 June, will feature campus visits to Michigan Tech, University of South Carolina or Fresno.  The second, from 17-21 July, will offer campus visits to Penn State-Altoona, University of Illinois or University of New Mexico.

More information on the Program and how to apply can be found on the Tracks to the Future web site. Registration is now open with a deadline of March 12th for the first cut on session and location options.  Applications will continue to be accepted after that on a first come, first served basis until each session/location is filled.  After locations are filled, applicants will be offered slots at remaining open locations.






RailTEC Contributions to 102nd TRB

RailTEC faculty, staff, students, and alumni had a strong showing in the rail section at the 102nd Annual Transportation Research Board (TRB) meeting in Washington, D.C. on 8-12 January 2023. In total there were over 75 separate references, including 49 authors, 20 Committee Members, 7 session chairs and 3 committee meeting chairs. Click here for a guide to 2023 RailTEC contributions at TRB.

The spotlight theme for the 2023 meeting was Rejuvenation Out of Disruption: Envisioning a Transportation System for a Dynamic Future. The thousands of transportation administrators, practitioners, policy makers, and researchers who attended the conference participated in more than 600 workshops, lectern sessions, committee sessions, and poster sessions. CEE Online was one of more than 200 exhibitors who participated in this event.

The 103rd TRB Annual Meeting will be held in Washington, DC on 7-11 January 2024.


Illinois Alumni Fill William W. Hay Seminar Schedule

RailTEC was delighted to welcome back four University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign alumni as William W. Hay Railroad Engineering Seminar Series speakers for the Fall 2022 semester. Over 130 participants attended the seminars in-person while 450 people participated online. Links to their presentations can be found listed below, on our William W. Hay Railroad Engineering Seminar page, or on our RailTEC YouTube channel.

The Fall 2022 speakers were:

23 Sep 2022 | Mike Wychocki, Eagle Rail, Synthesizing the Benefits of Trucking and Short-line Railroad Technology for Shipping Container Movement

14 Oct 2022 | Tom Roadcap, Brighline, Brightline: Bringing Private High-Speed Passenger Rail to the United States

28 Oct 2022 | Mike Mendenhall, Hanson Professional Services, Springfield Rail Improvements Project

11 Nov 2022 | Mark Dingler, HNTB, Use and Misuse of Data, Metrics and Simulation

A big thank you to all the presenters who shared their time and knowledge this semester.  Please join us next semester when online seminars begin again.

2022 RREC Conference a Success

It was great to be back in person for the 24th annual Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC) held on 2-3 November 2022 at the iHotel Illinois Conference Center. This two day conference had over 430 people registered who had the opportunity to hear over 45 different presentations, visit with almost 50 exhibitors, and attend one of three technical tours. The conference has seen significant growth since the first event in 1999 that had 150 attendees and 9 exhibitors.  Mark your calendars now for the 25th annual conference to be held 14-15 November 2023 at the iHotel Illinois Conference Center in Champaign.

Also at RREC the 2022 Environmental Excellence Award from the Association of American Railroads (AAR) was announced. This is the highest honor for environmental professionals in the railroad industry. The seven nominees for the award were:

    1. Nick Pryor, Environmental Project Manager, Kansas City Southern
    2. Michael Linder, Western Regional Manager, Field Operations, CN
    3. Mike Mendoza, Senior Engineer, Environmental, CSX
    4. Troy Carpenter, Regional Manager Environmental Operations, Norfolk Southern
    5. Dina Ledbetter, Senior Environmental Specialist, Amtrak
    6. Kevin Peterburs, Senior Manager, Site Remediation, Union Pacific
    7. James Taylor, Assistant Director-Advanced Energy Innovation, BNSF


The award was given to BNSF Assistant Director-Advanced Energy Innovation James Taylor.  Read the article in Railway Age here.

James Taylor, BNSF Railway, recipient of AAR’s 2022 Environmental Excellence Award


RREC Final Program Available

The final program is available for the 24th annual Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC) which will be held on 2-3 November 2022. Please join us at our new location: iHotel Illinois Conference Center, 1900 S 1st Street, Champaign, IL 61820.

This event features a conference keynote address by Matthew Tejada, Director – Office of Environmental Justice, United States Environmental Protection Agency and an AREMA Committee 13 banquet keynote address given by Alissa Yakali, Sustainability and Supplier Relations Manager,| Honda Development & Manufacturing of America.

Over 50 additonal speakers will be presenting during the two days on all aspects of railroad environmental performance and compliance, presented by railroad managers, environmental engineers, and researchers from all over North America.  PDH’s are available. This annual conference enables rail industry employees to meet with peers throughout the railroad environmental community to exchange views, learn about new techniques and technologies, and generally stay in touch with the direction of the railroad industry’s environmental programs.

Click here for the conference program and website.

CEE 408/409 Fall 2022 Field Trip

RailTEC students, faculty, staff and AREMA Student Chapter members walked across University Avenue in Urbana to reach the site of the CEE 408/409 Fall 2022 field trip. The Norfolk Southern Engineering Tie Gang permitted students to observe their railroad tie replacement project on a portion of the NS Mansfield Branch on Wednesday 28 September 2022. This was a fantastic opportunity for the students and RailTEC was very grateful for the opportunity.

Participation at 2022 AREMA Conference

The American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA) 2022 Annual Conference & Expo, was held 28-31 August at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver. Twenty-four RailTEC students and staff attended the conference. During the opening session, Illinois alumni John Cech, Vice President, Engineering at BNSF, was announced as the 2022 recipient of the Engineer of the Year Award by Railway Track & Structures (RT&S) Media. Each year RT&S awards one industry leader with their Engineer of the Year award. Click here to read the RT&S article.

In addition to attending technical presentations and sessions designed specifically for student participants, Illinois students created two teams of five to battle in the AREMA Committee 24 Collegiate Quiz Bowl Competition. Team 1, which consisted of Matt Parkes, Shashank Muddana, Dan Mueller, Thomas Stogin and Michael Copley, finished in second place after a breathtaking loss to Penn State Altoona in a sudden death match after being tied at the end of the last round. Team 2 consisted of Elie Roudiere, Teresa Talio, Wang Shi and David Wasilewski, and finished in fifth place. The student contest consisted of four rounds of ten questions related to railroad engineering, operations, history and trivia.

RailTEC presentations at AREMA this year were:

  • Class I Demonstration of LRAIL 3D Laser Scanning and Change Detection Technology and Development of Track Component Heath Indices (TCHIs) – J. Riley Edwards, PE, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and John Laurent, P.Eng., M.Sc., Pavemetrics
  • Case Study Comparison of Hazardous Material Unit and Manifest Trains Considering Mainline and Yard Risk – Di Kang, Rutgers University and Jiaxi Zhao, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Investigation into Longitudinal Track Resistance | A Critical Parameter for Track Loading and RNT Establishment – Marcus S. Dersch, PE, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
  • Field Evaluation of Under Tie Pad Impact to Track Performance – Arthur de Oliveira Lima, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Erik K. Frohberg, BNSF Railway

Winner of 2022 Hay Award for Excellence Announced

Michael Franke (L) presenting the 2022 Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence on Monday 29 August

For the past 24 years AREMA has recognized outstanding national and international achievement in railway engineering while honoring the memory and accomplishments of an Illinois faculty member by awarding a Dr. William W. Hay Award for Excellence. This year the award went to CSX and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for their project, “Carolina Connector Intermodal Project.” The project created the 310-acre “Carolina Connector Intermodal Terminal” (CCX) located in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, and is the newest and most advanced, state-of-the-art intermodal terminal on CSX’s system. The terminal serves as a vital link connecting railcars and trucks to transport products and goods across North Carolina and the country and represents a true public-private partnership success. To watch a video detailing this project, click here.

Hear more about Hay Awards in Season 2 Episode 4 of AREMA’s podcast: Platform Chats as the host, Walt Bleser, talks to AREMA members Michael Franke (Chair of the Hay Award Selection Committee, Senior Director, State Government Contracts (Ret) Amtrak), Christopher Barkan (Professor, George Krambles Director – Rail Transportation and Engineering Center – RailTEC, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign) and Matthew Fletcher (Railway Market Principal, Hanson Professional Services, Inc.)

You can also read about the history of the Hay Award in an article written by Chris Barkan and Mike Franke. This piece is featured on pages 34-35 in CEE’s Magazine Summer 2022.