News Archive

RailTEC in the News

On 06 September 2023 Dr. Christopher P.L. Barkan, Professor and George Krambles Director of RailTEC, was a guest speaker on MarketScale discussing how new technology aims to utilize more rail infrastructure as an alternative to trucks. MarketScale is a platform for B2B community engagement and creates and publishes industry-leading content. Click here to listen to the interview or here to read a PDF of the conversation.Brightline takes critical step forward on path for service to Orlando - Railway Track and StructuresOn a similar note, Chris was quoted in a New York Post article on 12 August 2023  discussing the Brightline high-speed rail system that will connect Miami with Orlando in approximately 3.5 hours.  Brightline’s highly anticipated first day of service is Friday, 22 September. Many RailTEC alumni as well as several consultant alumni are working on this project. Click here to read the New York Post article.

40 Post Mt2022 Horizontal Copy

In the July/August cover feature of Mass Transit magazine, RailTEC alumni Manuel Martin Ramos, Senior Rail Engineer at Arup, was recently named to the 2023 list of 40 Under 40 Awards. This annual opportunity recognizes outstanding young individuals making a name in the public transit industry. The awards acknowledge individuals who have shown a capacity for innovation, demonstrated leadership and a commitment to making an impact in transit. Click here to read Manu’s award bio.

RailTEC Receives Four Best Paper Awards

RailTEC faculty, students and alumni were well represented at the 12th International Heavy Haul Association (IHHA) conference where they won four out of twelve Best Paper Awards. These papers will be transferred to the Journal for Rail and Rapid Transit (JRRT) for re-review and consideration for publication. IHHA 2023 was held in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil on 27 – 31 August at the Windsor Convention & Expo Centre. The theme of this year’s IHHA conference was Application of Heavy Haul Innovations for a Sustainable World. A total of 508 abstracts were submitted by authors from 120 organizations and over 30 countries, under all 50 of the themes & sub-themes of the conference.

RailTEC student, staff and faculty presenters and their presentation titles included:

  • Quantitative Analysis of Conventional and Distributed Power Train Accident Characteristics by Xinhao Liu
  • Under Sleeper Pads: Field and Laboratory Evaluation for Heavy Haul by Jaeik Lee
  • Leveraging 3D Laser Scanning Data for Track Condition Change Detection by J. Riley Edwards
  • Track Modulus Assessment of Engineered Interspersed Concrete Sleepers in Ballasted Track by Arthur Lima
  • Effect of Fixed Structures on Longitudinal Rail Stresses and Buckled Track Accidents by Arthur Lima
  • Drone Imagens Applied To Turnouts Inspection by Vítor Alves
  • Big data in railroads: the use of unmanned inspection vehicles by Arthur Bilheri
  • Sensitivity of potential battery electric locomotive energy benefits to heavy haul freight rail operating characteristics by Michael Copley

This biennial conference is the premier event in the international heavy haul railway community and is dedicated to the pursuit of excellence in heavy haul railway operations, engineering, maintenance, and technology. The event was hosted in partnership with MRS Logistics and Vale and consisted of a two-day pre-conference technical workshop, three days of the main conference plenary and parallel sessions, and a one-day technical tour.

IHHA 2025 will be combined with the World Congress on Railway Research (WCRR) in Colorado Springs, CO and hosted by MxV Rail.

Visit with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

RailTEC students with Illinois faculty and staff pose beside distinguished guests including U.S. Secretary of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Representative Nikki Budzinski, and U.S. Senator Dick Durbin.

Over 150 people attended the fireside chat on Monday 31 July 2023 with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill, and U.S. Rep. Nikki Budzinski, D-Springfield, at the Newmark Civil Engineering Building on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana. The government officials also spoke in Savoy, where they officially announced $22.6 million in federal funds for a project to eliminate the railroad crossing at Curtis Road and U.S. 45, and in East St. Louis on the same day.

Despite the fact the officials were on a tightly orchestrated schedule, they spent a few minutes looking at research posters and talking to PI’s from CEE’s transportation centers.

To read the News-Gazette article click here.

To read the Grainger College of Engineering article click here.



Tracks to the Future Summer Camp

Nearly 100 high school students across the U.S. had an exciting opportunity to learn about rail in a Summer 2023 program titled “Tracks to the Future: Railroad Transportation and Engineering”. The program, which began in 2012 with Michigan Technological University’s (MTU) Rail Transportation Program, has since grown to include sessions at the following universities: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, Penn State Altoona, University of South Carolina, California State University-Fresno and the University of Mexico.

Thanks to funds from the Federal Railroad Administration, which included all program materials plus lodging and meals for the on-site portion, RailTEC hosted 21 students originating from Illinois, Missouri, New York, Tennessee, and Washington. Through virtual sessions, hands-on activities, and field visits to railroad facilities, students learned what forms modern railroad track, explored railway equipment from around the globe, and analyzed the latest operations, communication and control systems. They also learned how rail compares with other modes and leads the charge in reducing transportation greenhouse gas emissions.

This hybrid program featured a two-day at-home virtual portion with a two-day visit at one of the six partnering campuses. The 2023 program included two sessions. The first took place 19-23 June at MTU, University of South Carolina and California State University-Fresno; the second session took place 17-21 July at the University of New Mexico, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Penn State-Altoona.

2023 RREC Exhibitor/Sponsor Registration Open

The Railroad Environmental Conference (RREC) 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. The conference has seen significant growth since the first event in 1999 that had 150 attendees. Join us as we celebrate the 25th annual conference, which will be held again at the iHotel Illinois Conference Center on Tuesday and Wednesday 14-15 November 2023. Registration is now open for Exhibitors and Sponsors. 

Exhibitor registrations will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis until the Exhibit Hall reaches capacity. Sponsor registrations should be received by Wednesday, 20 September 2023 for your logo to be included on the RREC attendee gift. See our website for the full details on support levels and registration links.

Registration Open for One-Week Virtual Short Courses

RailTEC invites you to attend one or both of our one-week virtual railway engineering short courses. Each course will run Monday – Thursday from noon – 4:00pm (Central) and participants will earn 14 professional development hours.

Week One focuses on Track Engineering Fundamentals while Week Two focuses on Railroad Project Design. Past attendees include rail professionals, engineers, planners, consultants and more from employees throughout the rail industry.  Registration is open now.

Week One – Track Engineering Fundamentals
12-15 July 2021 | Noon-4pm CDT (via Zoom)
Lead Instructor: Conrad Ruppert, Jr.

Course Topics: Rail; Crossties & Fasteners; Ballast & Subgrade; Drainage; Slab Track; Turnouts & Special Trackwork; Track Structural Analysis; Track Structural Design; Track Standards & Inspections; Track Maintenance Technologies; Asset Management & Life Cycle Costs

Week Two – Railroad Project Design
19-22 July 2021 | Noon-4pm CDT (via Zoom)
Lead Instructor: Conrad Ruppert, Jr.

Course Topics: Horizontal Track Geometry; Vertical Track Geometry; Cross Sections & Earthwork; Railroad Location; Location Referencing & Track Charts; Project Phasing; Project Cost Estimation

For more information, click here to go to the Railway Engineering Short Course website.

EOH 2023, Pecori Alumni Award

The 101st in-person Engineering Open House (EOH), with its theme of “The Future, Today”, was held on Friday 31 March – Saturday 01 April 2023. There were over 200 student-led exhibits and this year there was an exhibit for every major. Each year this event draws thousands of students, families, teachers, and science-lovers to campus to partake in a truly unique experience celebrating all types of engineering. This is the place to see cutting-edge innovations before they are popularized, and see how students are at the forefront of science and engineering. Click here for the 2023 EOH visitor’s guide.

Continuing a tradition originally started in 2014, RailTEC hosted a group of middle and high school students and their chaperones from Hanson Professional Services and Springfield Frontiers International at the event on Saturday. Students participated in STEM activities and joined Hanson Professional Services CEO Sergio “Satch” Pecori for lunch.

Satch Pecori (center) visits with students and their chaperones from Springfield, IL.

Pecori is an Illinois Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering alumnus (BS 73, MS 74) and was awarded The Grainger College of Engineering Alumni Award for Distinguished Service for 2023. Recipients of this annual alumni award are recognized for professional distinction through outstanding leadership, contributions to the field of engineering, creativity, and entrepreneurship; as well as service to society, the professional community, and to the department, college, or university. Pecori and his company, Hanson Professional Services, have provided transformative support for RailTEC for many years. Click here to read about Hanson’s latest gift. To read CEE’s article about Pecori’s alumni award click here.

RailTEC/MRS Logistica Research Collaboration Agreement

RailTEC is excited to share the news that Professor Riley Edwards has established a formal research collaboration agreement with MRS Logística S.A. in Brazil. The two entities share many areas of common research interests and there are similarities with North American rail research needs.  MRS Logística is a freight rail company that controls, operates and monitors the Southeastern Federal Railroad Network. It interconnects the states of Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais and São Paulo, spanning through the region that concentrates approximately 55% of Brazil’s gross domestic product and is home to the largest industries in the country.  MRS currently has two employees associated with RailTEC.

RailTEC Research Engineer Arthur de Oliveira Lima (center) with MRS Logistica employees Antonio Merheb and Danilo Brinati Vieira.




$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.