Federal Grant To Establish Rural Railroad Safety Center at Kansas State University


Courtesy of Kansas State University

MANHATTAN — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration has announced the recipients of more than $326 million in grant funds under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program and the Special Transportation Circumstances Program, for a wide variety of state and local railroad infrastructure projects.

The grants will fund 45 projects in 29 states, including just over $2.5 million for a Rural Railroad Safety Center at Kansas State University.

“These investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Heading up the project will be Eric Fitzsimmons, assistant professor of civil engineering in the Carl R. Ice College of Engineering. His collaborators are civil engineering faculty members Robert Peterman, professor; and Christopher Jones and Stacey Kulesza, associate professors.

“Our state’s economy depends on safe, reliable rail transportation to connect farmers and businesses to the nation and deliver goods to market,” said U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, Kansas. “This grant to establish the Rural Railroad Safety Center at K-State will help solidify Kansas as a leader in rail transportation and share the expertise of officials at K-State with the rest of the country and industry. I was pleased to support efforts to help secure this funding from the Department of Transportation, and look forward to working alongside the university to build and grow this innovative program.”

Partner institutions include the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; University of Florida; Pennsylvania State University, Altoona; and California State University, Chico.

“I often brag that the two things American agriculture does is produce more per acre and get our goods to market cheaper and more reliably than any other country in the world,” said U.S. Rep. Dr. Roger Marshall, also from Kansas. “Rail transportation is an important component of this, and I’m proud of the work done to support workforce development and ensure future rail industry safety research through the establishment of the Rural Railroad Safety Center at Kansas State University.”

The Rural Railroad Safety Center will have four strategic goals:

  • Conduct and promote railroad safety research selected by industry partners and the Federal Railroad Administration.
  • Develop a comprehensive unified railroad education curriculum to be delivered at all partnering universities.
  • Facilitate novel rail-focused outreach activities, including a bimonthly railroad seminar and undergraduate summer research experiences.
  • Disseminate research results and technology transfer to be used by the railroad industry via various outlets.

“I certainly want to thank the entire Kansas Congressional delegation for their support and assistance in securing this grant,” Fitzsimmons said.

“By the end of the three-year grant period, it is our goal to have evolved into a vibrant center for industry-relevant railroad research,” he said. “Additional educational and outreach programs will be in place to train and develop a diverse workforce for the railroad industry and our research outcomes will help ensure the future of the rail industry is as safe and efficient as possible.”

Derek Nester
Derek Nester
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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