President Obama Nominates Sandhouse Rail Group Member, Joseph Szabo to Head the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

March 2009

President Obama announced that he will put forth Joseph C. Szabo, as his nominee to head the Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). The FRA is the federal government’s rail safety regulator, administering and enforcing federal rail safety laws and regulations.

Szabo, 51, would become the FRA’s 13th administrator and the first to be drawn from the ranks of rail labor since the agency was founded in 1967.

A fifth-generation railroader, Szabo began his railroading career in 1976 with the Illinois Central Railroad (IC), where he worked as a yard switchman, road trainman and commuter-rail conductor. In 1987 he joined Metra when IC sold its commuter-rail division. In 1984, Szabo was elected secretary/treasure of the United Transportation Union (UTU) Local 1290 and later became a legislative representative. In 1992 he was elected vice chairperson of the Illinois State Legislative Board and in 1996 was elected legislative director. As State Director Szabo has provided vision and direction to rail safety and regulatory issues and worked with business and civic leaders in the advancement of freight and passenger rail service. Szabo also has been serving as a vice president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, and serves on the FRA’s Rail Safety Advisory Committee participating in the development of federal regulations on rail safety.

Rail Industry and Labor support Szabo’s nomination:

  • Richard Timmons, President of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association commends the nomination of Joe Szabo: “We are at a pivotal juncture in our national’s history as it relates to our economy, our infrastructure and our environment. Szabo’s railroad career spans both freight and passenger operations, as well as union leadership, which combined, prepare him to take the helm at FRA.”
  • Edward Wytkind, President of the AFL-CIO’s Transportation Trades Department (TTD) says: “Szabo’s background and work experience make him uniquely qualified for this position. Because of his first-hand knowledge of the industry, he will hit the ground running to maximize the safety of our nation’s railroads for workers and the public. With the Obama Administration’s support for Amtrak and commitment to developing high speed and commuter rail in this country, the FRA Administrator will play an important role in ushering in a new era in passenger rail transportation.

Joe Szabo is a member of the Transportation Center’s rail industry group, The Sandhouse Rail Group and is expected to deliver a talk to the Sandhouse Rail Group at Northwestern in the fall of 2009.