Letter from
Board Chair
Cindy Earhart

Executive Vice President And Chief Financial Officer

Norfolk Southern Corp.

Constituent participation — writing to Congress, meeting with a legislator, engaging on social media or publishing one’s views in the local newspaper — is playing an ever-growing role in the decision-making process in Washington today. Congress listens when constituents speak out.

This reality underscores why GoRail’s model of engaging local leaders across the country is so important. Via thousands of field meetings with key local influencers annually and a sophisticated media strategy, GoRail’s team is able to build the relationships that matter and then utilize these connections to impact policy decisions when it counts.

Read The Letter

Letter From Cindy Earhart

Executive Vice President And Chief Financial Officer

Norfolk Southern Corp.

Constituent participation — writing to Congress, meeting with a legislator, engaging on social media or publishing one’s views in the local newspaper — is playing an ever-growing role in the decision-making process in Washington today. Congress listens when constituents speak out.

This reality underscores why GoRail’s model of engaging local leaders across the country is so important. Via thousands of field meetings with key local influencers annually and a sophisticated media strategy, GoRail’s team is able to build the relationships that matter and then utilize these connections to impact policy decisions when it counts.

Those of us in the rail industry know the freight rail story, but GoRail’s role is to bring it to the public — to spread the word that, as the nation’s only privately funded freight transportation mode, railroads pay their own way, investing billions of dollars each year in the people, technology, equipment and infrastructure that powers the American economy and has given the United States the safest, most efficient and productive freight rail system in the world.

This report provides an overview of GoRail’s 2017 accomplishments in telling this story. From educating new members of Congress to promoting balanced regulation to engaging first responders on the industry’s safety initiatives, GoRail is on the front lines, highlighting the industry’s positive impact every day.

Having served as a member of GoRail’s board since 2013, I have an appreciation for its fine work, as well as its commitment to ensuring that the organization continues to grow and succeed. I look forward to serving as chair of its board in 2018.

We could not convey the freight rail story without the thousands of community and business leaders; local, county and state officials; rail suppliers and contractors; and others who consistently support GoRail and have committed to speaking out about the public benefits of freight rail. Thank you.

A closer look at GoRail's 2017 issues, campaigns and events

Countering STB Reregulation Proposals

March - November

First introduced in 2016, rail regulation proposals under consideration at the U.S. Surface Transportation Board (STB) — including “forced access” — threaten to undermine private rail investment, in turn jeopardizing safety and efficiency across the network. GoRail devoted much of its 2017 activities to countering these misguided policies.

  • 457 local community, business, and government leaders signed a letter to the STB and Congress opposing forced access
  • 1,660 letters from GoRail State Directors to key members of 32 state legislatures directly countered anti-rail messaging from reregulation proponents
  • 1,200+ field meetings discussed how rail reregulation would harm communities
  • 20+ earned media pieces published

Truck Size and Weight Activation


In response to the threat of Congress taking up heavier truck amendments during the appropriations process, GoRail launched its Action Center, prioritizing targeted constituent contacts to Congress as well as targeted op-ed placements.

  • 2,100+ emails to 235 members of the House and 92 Senators opposing heavier trucks
  • 6 op-eds published in targeted states


Building AskRail Awareness

October - November

To promote an updated AskRail app, GoRail prioritized education around the AskRail mobile app for first responders, as well as other railroad safety initiatives.

  • Distributed AskRail information in 199 meetings with first responders and other community officials and organizations
  • 16 safety-focused articles ran in first responder and local government publications, reaching an audience of over 500,000

Examining Intermodal

November - December

With the holidays approaching, GoRail focused its earned and social media efforts on intermodal and how it delivers for consumers, highlighting the important role of rail investments in building the intermodal network we enjoy today.

  • 5 op-eds by GoRail advocates published
  • Influential constituents sent over 30 tweets on intermodal and freight rail

  • 3January

    New Congress Education

    With the arrival of the 115th Congress in January, GoRail prioritized education and outreach to constituents in the districts and states of newly elected members of Congress and newly appointed members of key congressional committees.

    • Educated new members in 25 states on how freight rail benefits their communities, also connecting them with local rail leaders
    • Published 15 op-eds in districts and states of key new members
  • 2March
  • 10May

    Senators Thune and Nelson Receive Award

    In partnership with the Association of American Railroads (AAR), GoRail honored Senators John Thune (R-S.D.) and Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) with the first-ever Railroad Achievement Award.

  • 15May

    Get on Board Grassroots Recruitment Campaign

    For Infrastructure Week 2017 (May 15-19), GoRail unveiled a new animation on the public benefits of freight rail as part of a larger grassroots recruitment effort aimed at bolstering social media and newsletter subscribers.

    • 400+ hours cumulative viewing of GoRail animation
    • 100+ new subscribers
    • Recruitment social media campaign surrounding the National Association of Counties’ (NACo) annual conference in July received 33,000 impressions and a strong 5% engagement rate
  • 14August

    Congressman DeFazio Honored with Award

    Representative Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), ranking member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, is honored by GoRail and AAR with award for demonstrated commitment to the U.S. rail network.

  • 23August
  • 20September
  • 5December

    Chairman Shuster Receives Award

    AAR and GoRail honored Congressman Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, with the final Railroad Achievement Award of 2017.

By The Numbers
Freight Rail Education in Action



Earned Media

3 M+
Social Media

Earned Media

Op-Eds, Letters to the Editor & Association Publications

While our education mission is rooted in one-on-one meetings with community leaders across the country, we are able to reach a broader audience through earned media placements in local news outlets and key association publications like the newsletter of a state association of counties or a chamber of commerce blog, for example. These op-eds, letters to the editor and informative articles — authored by our constituent advocates and by GoRail staff — cover a range of issues, from railroads’ safety initiatives to the negative implications of forced access to freight rail’s standout role in the transportation network.


The economy in Texas and across the country rolls right along with the railway industry

Published August 14 in the Dallas Morning News.

Read More

In railroad-heavy Kentucky, access to tracks plays a significant role in industrial development

Published November 1 in Think Kentucky, the newsletter by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

Read More

We must keep trains rolling safely and fairly

Published October 15 in the Tacoma News Tribune.

Read More
Anatomy of a Site Visit

Meet GoRail State Director Jeffrey Holliday as he hits the road in Arkansas, meeting with local leaders to discuss the public benefits of freight rail. Click across to join his journey — from strategy to execution to result.


Strategy underpins each organizing trip, beginning with identifying key members of Congress, based on committee assignment or current policy priorities, and then scheduling meetings — at least 25 per visit — with constituents who will resonate with those members.

For this visit, Jeff will focus on Little Rock and Congressman Bruce Westerman’s 4th District. Rep. Westerman is a member of the U.S. House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as the Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee.


After research, Jeff focuses on meeting with recommended county judges, mayors, chambers of commerce, economic development organizations, state legislators and several county, city and municipal associations.

Next step: Educate these folks about rail’s important economic role in their communities.

Welcome to Arkansas’s 4th Congressional District, where Jeff is now on the road, implementing his plan for the week — meeting with local leaders to tell the freight rail story.

This morning Jeff focuses on the city of El Dorado, home to a short line railroad that connects to the 140,000-mile nationwide network. During his stop, Jeff meets with the city’s mayor.

He is also able to connect the president of El Dorado’s chamber of commerce directly with Rep. Westerman in a face-to-face meeting (Rep. Westerman later shares Jeff’s tweet about the meeting). El Dorado, part of Arkansas’s “Golden Triangle” region, has a large manufacturing base that depends on rail infrastructure to export finished products and receive raw materials.

Across all 28 meetings Jeff has this week, the discussion centers on the public benefits created when freight railroads invest their private dollars into the rail network. Every dollar spent generates $10 in economic output. Every railroad job supports another nine across the economy. One train can carry the load of several hundred trucks, alleviating congestion and mitigating pollution.

Next step: Follow up, converting these new and existing relationships into constituent actions in support of a healthy freight rail network.

The work of our State Directors hinges on relationship-building and education, with the ultimate goal of recruiting advocates to take action.

Back at his home office, Jeff follows up on commitments and requests from the previous week. He thanks everyone with whom he met and motivates them to weigh in with their senators and representatives — whether via letter, op-ed, call or tweet — about how Arkansas communities benefit from freight rail investments.

When all is said and done, Jeff’s five-day site visit produces 26 actions. Nine constituents agree to send pro-rail letters to their members of Congress. Fifteen sign GoRail’s group letter opposing forced access. The mayor of El Dorado agrees to author an op-ed and it is published shortly after in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette out of Little Rock.

In addition to generating immediate contacts to Congress about the importance of freight rail, Jeff has also laid the foundation for mobilization in the future. Across meetings with the Arkansas Lieutenant Governor’s office, State Senate Pro Tempore Jonathan Dismang, the Arkansas Association of Counties and the Arkansas Municipal League, among others, Jeff has fostered key relationships and educated many influential constituents about freight railroads and how their private sector investments in infrastructure provide public benefits.

"State on track: Pacts aid infrastructure growth"

GoRail's mobilization efforts had a significant impact in 2017

738 local community leaders took action 934 times during 2017 to communicate the importance of rail to their communities.


In surveys of nearly 2,000 congressional staff spanning 12 years, the Congressional Management Foundation has documented that citizen voices do matter… Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, ‘We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.'

Bradford Fitch
President & CEO / Congressional Management Foundation


The bulk of contributions to GoRail are funneled directly to the people and tools necessary to effectively tell the freight rail story. Administrative and fundraising costs are minimized while the largest portion of our budget supports our dedicated team and the tools they use to educate, recruit and mobilize local leaders across the country on behalf of a healthy freight rail network.

GoRail Financial Stewardship Chart

Thank you to all who helped make 2017
a successful year for GoRail.

Russ McGurk

All of us at GoRail appreciate the support we received in 2017 from a broad cross-section of the freight rail industry, notably the rail suppliers and contractors highlighted below, and from thousands of community, business and political leaders in towns and cities all across America. When influential constituents join together to deliver a clear and localized message to their members of Congress about the public benefits of rail, it makes a powerful impression and has a lasting impact on decision-making in Washington.

2017 GoRail Donors

Cranemasters, Inc.
Ames Construction
Amsted Rail
American Concrete Products Co.
EVRAZ North America
Herzog Companies
Holland LP
Hulcher Services Inc.
Koppers Inc.
L.B. Foster Company
Loram Maintenance of Way, Inc.
New York Air Brake
Polivka International
Progress Rail Services
RailWorks Corporation
RCL Services Group
RJ Corman Railroad Group
Siemens Rail Automation Corporation
Special Fleet Service, Inc.
Steel Dynamics, Inc. Structural & Rail Division
Stella-Jones Inc.
Strato, Inc.
TTX Company
Wabtec Corporation
Amerities Holdings LLC
Jay-Reese Contractors, Inc.
Anderzack-Pitzen Construction, Inc.
The Okonite Company
Ferrovia, LLC
Somerville Companies
Hitachi Rail STS USA, Inc.
Omaha Track
Railway Systems Suppliers, Inc.
SEMA Construction
Trinity Rail
Direct Chassis Link
Gregori Construction
Genesis Rail Services, Inc.
The Greenbrier Companies
API Global Solutions
K-Five Construction Corporation
RMS Intermodal
Parsec, Inc.
PS Technology