December 6, 2002

CHICAGO (Dec. 7)–UTU Illinois Legislative Director Joseph C. Szabo has been named co-chairman of the Freight Railroad Subcommittee of Gov.-Elect Rod Blagojevich’s Transportation Transition Team.

Szabo’s appointment was announced today by the Governor-Elect’s Transition Office.

In a unique arrangement, the Railroad Subcommittee will be headed by a dual chairmanship. Szabo will occupy one chair. The other will be held by Paul Nowicki, Assistant-VP-Government and Public Policy for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. Both will report to the chairman of the Transportation Transition Team, U.S. Rep. William O. Lipinski (D-Chi.).

Other members of the subcommittee include Robert E. Gallamore, Director of the Transportation Center of Northwestern University; State Sen. William O’Daniel (D-Mt. Vernon), who sits on the Senate’s Transportation Committee; Karyn Romano, Transportation Director of the Chicago’s Metropolitan Planning Council; Ed Way, State Chairman of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers; Brenda Russell, Resident Vice President-Governmental Relations at CSX Transportation Corp.; Janet Gilbert, Counsel, Canadian National Railway; Dr. J. Lee Hutchins, Principal of the Oak Park-based civil-engineering and urban-planning practice EPT, Ltd.; Sunil Puri, President of real-estate developer First Rockford Group; James Wolfe, Principal of Lester B. Knight, engineers, Chicago; Lance Wyatt, Sr. VP of Abbot Laboratories and President of its Special Products Group; and Kevin Busath, a volunteer staff member on the Transition Team.

“Although the freight-railroad industry lies within the private sector, it has a very heavy impact on many areas for which state government is responsible,” Szabo said.

“The most important of those areas is economic expansion and job growth,” he pointed out. “Chicago is the undisputed the center of the North American rail network, handling one out of every four U.S. rail shipments. So any inefficiencies in the Chicago area’s rail network endanger the job security of 115,000 people and $8 billion worth of business per year. An effective freight railroad network in Illinois is essential to the state’s economic development and to the growth of good jobs in manufacturing, agribusiness, construction, mining and retailing.”

Szabo noted that state government also has much to say about the safety practices of the railroads and the workplace environment for railroad employees. And because state government funds much of the cost of running Metra and Amtrak trains, it has a stake in the management of the freight-railroad tracks over which passenger trains operate. State-owned highways intersect with railroads at thousands of public grade crossings around the state. Each is a potential safety hazard that can be made less dangerous only if state government and the rail industry work together.

“The job of our subcommittee committee is to make sure the new governor is adequately informed so he can make sound decisions and strong appointments when dealing with freight-railroad issues,” Szabo said.

“Personally, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to help our new governor address these problems,” he said, “and I think my appointment reflects the esteem in which he holds our union. I am looking forward to sitting down with my fellow subcommittee members and developing a constructive agenda for the new Blagojevich administration.”