The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association’s (ASLRRA) Virtual Connections Convention held earlier this month drew nearly 600 attendees with more than 130 speakers and 40-plus exhibitors. Additionally, the Midwest Association of Rail Shippers (MARS) has awarded scholarships to 17 college undergraduates as part of an annual program.
ASLRRA’s five-day online event offered five general sessions featuring 50 industry experts; nine educational tracks with 87 content experts leading 26 sessions; and an exhibit hall. The nine key topics covered were: engineering and maintenance-of-way, finance and administration, human resources, legal, marketing, mechanical, safety and operations, technology, and young professionals.
“This is unquestionably the strongest content lineup we’ve ever had: a silver lining of the pandemic, as speakers said yes to an hour of their time, vs. days required to travel to an event,” ASLRRA President Chuck Baker said. “While we would have of course preferred to be in person, the virtual format delivered on the key components that are important to our members—a solid education lineup; access to industry influencers such as FRA [Federal Railroad Administration] Administrator Ron Batory, PHMSA [Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration] Administrator Skip Elliot, STB [Surface Transportation Board] Board Member Patrick Fuchs, infrastructure investors, congressional staffers, railroad CEOs, and many more industry experts; the opportunity to connect during online happy hours; and dedicated time to visit with exhibitors.”
Access is now available to the more than 40 hours of online content as well as the virtual expo hall, “brain break” videos created by ASLRRA’s Young Professionals Committee and Board, and the virtual photo booth and gallery.
(ASLRRA President Chuck Baker recently contributed “Staggers Act Lessons Remain Relevant in 2020” to Railway Age.)
For MARS, the scholarship recipients for 2020 were selected based on academic achievement, extracurricular activities and community service.
The Bernard J. Thomas Honorary Scholarship Award was given to Nora Chambers, who is studying at Northwestern University. The recipients of the MARS scholarships are Hunter Barth, North Dakota State University; Carly Baun, University of Mississippi; Connor Boudreau, University of Nebraska–Lincoln; Katherine Chambers, Northwestern University; Lauren Comanse, Creighton University; Julianna DiDeo, Auburn University; Ricardo DiDeo, University of North Florida; Brianna Fay, University of Wisconsin–Madison; Danielle Fay, University of Wisconsin–Stevens Point; Maura Flahive, Wellesley College; Garrett Jackson, Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota; Cate McCreavy, Salisbury University; Jacob Rude, Butler University; Analiese Tisa, University of Notre Dame; Paxton Tomlin, Western Carolina University; and Daisy Trujillo, Indiana University–Bloomington.