News Archive

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.

Passing of Professor TC Kao

It is with great sadness that RailTEC shares the news that Professor Tsung-Chung “TC” Kao passed away unexpectedly on Thursday 29 September 2022 in Taipei, Taiwan. A private family funeral will be held on Wednesday 12 October 2022 and a memorial service will be held in Taiwan on Saturday 29 October 2022. TC was a mentor and inspiration world-wide to many in the high-speed rail (HSR) industry with his energy, passion, and drive. RailTEC owes him a special thanks. Into the late 2000’s RailTEC was solidly a freight-oriented rail program and TC brought HSR to the curriculum and research. For the 12 years he was at Illinois, TC was a research professor and RailTEC’s Director – High Speed Rail System.

TC had a 21 year involvement in Taiwan High-Speed Rail (THSR) and served for 12 years as the Vice President of THSRC – Planning/Infrastructure. This was a $15 billion USD infrastructure project with 1,200 professionals from 26 nations directly reporting to him during the construction stage. He also managed 55 international design and construction contracts with no single arbitration necessary during his management and all contracts were completed on time. TC had a desire to preserve the lessons he learned on the Taiwan High-Speed Rail project and accomplished this by writing a book on the management of the project and by sharing what he knew with the next generation of students.

Since April 2008, TC taught at National Taiwan University, National Central University, Hong Kong Polytechnic University, and the University of Illinois – Urbana-Champaign. His first class at Illinois was in the Spring of 2010 and was co-taught with professor and George Krambles Director – RailTEC, Dr. Chris Barkan. TC went on to teach “High Speed Rail Engineering”, “High Speed Rail Planning”, “High Speed Rail Construction Management”, “High Speed Rail Operation & Maintenance” and “Integration Project Management”, with particular illustrations of his experience on the Taiwan High Speed Rail project. Illinois was incredibly fortunate because these were the first such classes taught in North America.  His cheerful attitude, pragmatic optimism and intellect made him an excellent teacher and his classes were always heavily attended.

To read the article about TC published in the fall 2022 edition of the CEE Magazine, click here.

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.


RailTEC Attends 15th Annual Summerail Conference

(L-R) Conference organizer Forrest Van Schwartz, UI students Akira Oniyama, David Wasilewski, and Xinhao Liu, and conference organizer David Clarke from University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Three RailTEC students attended the 15th Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Freight Rail Committee AR040 Summerail ’22. This two day conference, which was designed to bring together railroad professionals, government officials, and academics to discuss the past, present, and future of the U.S. railroad industry, was held on 17-18 August in Michigan City, Indiana. It included a full day of presentations, a visit to the National New York Central Railroad Museum in Elkhart, IN and travel on the South Shore Line between Carroll Avenue Station and South Bend.

RailTEC master’s student Xinhao Liu presented his research on “Effect of Tank Car Placement on Hazardous Material Train Derailment Severity” while undergraduate student David Wasilewski presented “Innovations in Track Inspection: Using 3D Laser Scanning Data for Condition Change Detection”. The third student attending the conference was Akira Oniyama.