LRIW Joins in Railroad Lobby Day in DC

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Some of the LRIW participants: (from left) Jamie Clark, UNITRAC; Kaleigh Reyes, GE Transportation; Susan Robertson, Virginia Rail Solutions; Kathy Keeney, RailResource, and Natalie McCarroll, UNITRAC.

The League of Railway Industry Women had a strong contingent at Railroad Day on Capitol Hill 2014 held on March 13.  This year marked the first time that the LRIW had an official presence at the high-profile day in Washington, D.C., although some LRIW members had attended individually over the years.

The night before the event, a group of LRIW members held a networking event at a nearby restaurant. It was a great opportunity for some of our group’s leaders and long-time members to meet some of our new members, including women from Unitrac Railroad Materials and Duke Energy.

A virtual Who’s Who of railroad officials from across the country gathered in Washington to meet with elected representatives and policy makers to voice their needs and communicate the industry’s importance to the economy. The annual event is sponsored and organized by the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, the Association of American Railroads, the National Railroad Construction and Maintenance Association, the Railway Engineering-Maintenance Suppliers Association, the Railway Supply Institute, the Railway Systems Suppliers Inc., and the Railway Tie Association. There were about 550 participants and 360 meetings during the event.

At an early morning briefing to a packed ballroom, Adam Nordstrom, the ASLRRA’s Washington representative, and Ian Jefferies, Senior Vice President of Government Affairs for the AAR, outlined the main issues for the group to emphasize in meetings with their elected representatives. The three main themes were opposing any legislative effort that would harm the current economic and antitrust regulatory environment, urging Congress to extend the short line infrastructure tax credit, and opposing efforts to increase truck size and weight allowances.

LRIW President Susan Robertson was impressed by the event and would like to see LRIW make it an annual tradition. “I didn’t really know what to expect and what it was all about. It was incredibly organized and they made it easy for first-time attendees,” she said.

She voiced surprise at how well-versed all the short lines were on the industry issues, and said she enjoyed the small group meetings with congressmen and senators that included a mix of all-size railroads, suppliers and contractors.

“I absolutely came away from it feeling more connected to our industry and feeling good about the real input and impact we can have before our elected representatives,” she added.

LRIW Vice President Kaleigh Reyes said the LRIW had a larger turnout than she expected and that she was quite impressed by the number of women, in general, that participated in Railroad Day. “I particularly enjoyed that the Railroad Day lobbyist teams were separated regionally – it allowed me the opportunity to speak to my elected officials about important industry issues and network with men and women who live and work in my area – some of whom I’d never had the opportunity to interact with before.”

Kaleigh reports that legislators and their staff were interested in the LRIW’s presence at the event, providing an opening for her to give an LRIW “elevator speech.” Other women from her delegation also inquired about the LRIW and it’s likely that the LRIW picked up new members from Railroad Day thanks to the efforts of Kaleigh and other LRIW attendees.

by Kathy Keeney, Publisher, RailResource, LRIW Scholarship Chair