Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Batory picked for FRA chief

Written by  William C. Vantuono, Editor-in-Chief, Railway Age

The White House on July 10 announced that President Donald Trump intends to nominate Ronald L. Batory, who recently retired as president and chief operating officer of Conrail, as the next Federal Railroad Administrator.


Batory retired March 31 as president and COO of Conrail, following a 46-year rail operating career that included the presidency of the Belt Railway of Chicago and senior positions at Class 1 and regional railroads, including general manager in Chicago for Southern Pacific. He earned a bachelor's in business from Adrian College and a master of arts from Eastern Michigan University.

"Not since Canadian born Reginald Whitman was administrator (1969-1970), following a 40-year career at Great Northern Railway (1929-1969), has there been one with as comprehensive a rail operating background as Batory," notes Railway Age Capitol Hill Contributing Editor Frank N. Wilner.

Batory was one of four short-listed candidates for FRA Administrator, and was in most circles considered the front-runner. Of the four—Batory; John J. Brennan III, senior commerce counsel, Union Pacific; Roger Shane Karr, chief of staff to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.); and Steve Martinko, a government affairs counselor with the law and lobbying firm K&L Gates—Batory was the only candidate with railroad operating experience. His accomplishments at Conrail in large part led to the railroad's selection as Railway Age's 2017 Regional Railroad of the Year.

The U.S. Senate must confirm Batory as FRA Administrator, along with many other Trump nominations for key government posts . At this point it is unclear whether a confirmation hearing will take place prior to the Senate recessing for the summer, in August.

"Batory's confirmation hearing will be before the Senate Commerce Committee, whose Surface Transportation Subcommittee Chairman Deb Fisher (R-Neb.) has introduced legislation to impose performance standards in place of command-and-control regulation to improve rail safety," adds Wilner. "He can expect to be grilled on his opinion of performance standards. If the legislation fails passage, and Batory is confirmed by the entire Senate, then the Commerce Committee, with FRA oversight, likely will pressure him to pursue that objective administratively. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, to whom Batory will report, as the FRA is an Executive Branch agency within the DOT, has not yet voiced an opinion on the legislation."