From Aug. 15-17, 2017, the Michigan Tech Rail Transportation Program (RTP) worked with Michigan Department of Transportation, the National University Rail Center and the Transportation Research Board Freight Rail Transportation Committee (AR040) to organize the inaugural Midwest Rail Conference.
Under RTP’s leadership the planning committee that consisted of rail industry, government agencies, and other stakeholders interested in promoting the industry brought together more than thirty speakers and over 200 participants in Kalamazoo, Michigan to focus on the conference them, Midwest Connections: Passenger and Freight Rail Look to the Future! RTP Faculty, Staff and Students led the conference coordination and logistics. Dr. Pasi Lautala functioned as Conference Co-chair, David Nelson and Amanda Kerttu were the lead coordinators and six students (Aaron Dean, Darian Reed, Sangpil Ko, Alawudin Salim, Alex Christmas and Kyle Dick) came to Kalamazoo to assist….and to enjoy the conference.
The conference opened on Tuesday morning with a golf outing with proceeds going to the conference’s student scholarship fund. Tuesday afternoon was filled with committee and organizational meetings, and the day was capped off with an evening reception at the Bell’s Brewery Backroom. Wednesday featured the technical content of the conference at the Western Michigan University Fetzer Center. The program included a dozen plenary and breakout sessions featuring industry experts in a host of passenger and freight rail topics. The keynote address was given by Joseph McHugh, VP of State Supported Services-Business Development for Amtrak. The event wrapped up with a full day of field trips featuring the MDOT/Amtrak Wolverine Higher Speed Rail Corridor, and a visit to the Little River Steam Railroad in Coldwater, Michigan.