2nd Annual Michigan Rail Conference

August 26-27, 2014

The Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program (RTP) and Michigan Department of Transportation, Office of Rail organized and conducted the 2nd Annual Michigan Rail Conference at Macomb Community College, Warren, Michigan on August 26 and 27, 2014. We’d like to thank all of the conference sponsors for their support; without you this event would not have been possible!

Diamond Level Sponsors

Amtack Corridor Capitol CSX Norfolk Southen

Platinum Level Sponsors

CN Talgo

Gold Level Sponsors

Canadian Pacific Balfour Beatty Rail TranSystems Bergmann Associates

And another Thank You! To our conference planning committee, Nikkie Johnson, Ron DeCook, Dan Somersworth, Dave Nelson, Pasi Lautala, and Nick Little. The time spent planning paid off big, with a well-executed conference.

Pasi Lautala delivers introduction message Mary Lane presents

The conference opened with a safety briefing from the Director of the Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program, Dr Pasi Lautala. After a brief introduction to the day, and introductions of visiting dignitaries, including Representative Marilyn Lane from the 31st District, the program really got moving.

The morning plenary session started with presentations and a panel discussion focused on rail education and work force development in Michigan and across the industry. Nick Little from Michigan State University, Pasi Lautala from Michigan Tech, Frank Dunbar from Wayne County Community College, and David Peterson from University of Wisconsin-Madison discussed the programs currently active at each institution, and answered questions from the floor.

The morning continued with a panel discussion, Opportunities for Building Collaborative Partnerships, moderated by Jon Cool from Michigan Association of Railroads. Jon Duncan-Varda, Marc Magliari, Pete Fontana, Tim Hoeffner, and Libby Ogard presented views from a variety of industry perspectives.

Michigan State Senator Brandenburg also found time to address the conference. Following a networking lunch, the afternoon sessions began with two concurrent breakout sessions.

Laurel Birchfield moderated the panel, Rail Transit, Commuter Rail, and other Passenger Rail Development, with panel members Tim Fischer from M-1 Rail, James Bruckbauer from the Michigan Land Use Instititute, Kristian Foondle from MDOT, and Phil Pasterak from Parsons Brinkerhoff.

Kurt Facknitz moderated the panel, Railroads as Part of Supply Chains, with panel members Roger Huff from Ford Motor Co., Peter Anastor from MEDC, John Taylor from Wayne State University, and Rick Chapla from The Right Place, Inc.

After a short break between afternoon sessions …. the power went out. Not just the building, not just the campus, but the whole section of the city! After a brief discussion with the organizing committee, we continued with the afternoon breakout sessions, using the emergency lights and moving our audience a little closer to the panelists.

Liz Treutel moderated a session titled Passenger Rail, Economic Development, and the Brain Drain. Here panel consisted of Ben Sperry from Ohio University, Kevin Brubaker from the Environmental Law Center, Richard Murphy from the Michigan Municipal League, and Patrick Kidd from Amtrak.

Sean Pengelly moderated the other breakout, Transloads and Rural Development. Shasta Duffy from the Grand Elk Railroad, Pasi Lautala from Michigan Tech, Nikkie Johnson from MDOT and Fred Schlemmer from Steel Pros .. pictures were hard to come by with the power out!

Even with the power issues, the conference continued with the keynote address by Tony Hatch, and then concluded with a pizza dinner (ordered from outside the blackout area!). Severe thunderstorms in southern Michigan during the afternoon pulled some conference participants away, but there was still a good sized crowd, even at the end of the day’s sessions.

The conference continued on August 27th with a field trip to a variety of rail facilities in the Detroit area. The M-1 Rail construction site in downtown Detroit, the Livernois Yard intermodal operation, and NS Triple Crown operation were highlighted, as well as the new Amtrak station in Dearborn.