Tom Murta Executive Director

Tom Murta brings significant rail industry knowledge in the areas of compliance assessment, risk reduction, crisis management and emergency planning.  Murta held a variety of positions at CSX spanning his 24 years with the company including responsibility for safety and compliance, hazardous materials systems, environmental compliance, and homeland security.  Prior to CSX, Murta spent six years with the Kentucky Department of Natural Resources.

In addition to his rail expertise, Tom has experience working in and with government agencies as well as serving on not-for-profit boards. Murta is also the recipient of several industry awards and recognition, including the CSX Chairman’s Award for Excellence, and the TRANSCAER Chairman’s Award.
Tom can be reached at or (202) 585-3446.

Sam Cotton
Sam Cotton Director of Safety Culture Programs

Sam Cotton has held the position of Divisional General Manager for Omnitrax Central Division. From 2007 to 2011, Sam was the General Manager for Omnitrax’s Panhandle Northern Railroad (PNR). In 2009, Sam was awarded the ASLRRA Safety Person of the Year and the PNR-ASLRRA Most Improved Railroad of the Year. Sam’s dedication, extensive knowledge, and reliability are true assets that the Short Line Safety Institute Team values most.
Sam can be reached at or (202) 585-3435.

Julia Leone, PhD Manager of Research and Organizational Development

Julia Leone has conducted research on a variety of topics including decision making, social exclusion, and online learning. She has also worked with senior leaders in identifying best practices for managing a diverse workforce. She is also a contributing author to a textbook, Individual Motivation Within Groups. Ms. Leone holds a PhD in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, an MS in Industrial and Organizational Psychology, and an MPhil in Psychology from the Graduate Center, CUNY, N.Y., and a BA in Psychology from Honors College, University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz., where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. Julia is responsible for directing efforts to ensure quality and consistency of SLSI’s programs through the application of systematic approaches in program design and execution, and leads SLSI’s research efforts. Julia can be reached at or (202) 628-5349.

Jill Medeiros Director of Administration

Jill Medeiros began her railroad career with Pan Am Railways in the Transportation Department. Before embarking on a railroad career, Jill taught English at several universities across the country. Jill manages the SLSI grants and serves as an Assessor for the SLSI Safety Culture Assessment program.
Jill can be reached at or (202) 567-2821.

Ryan Risdon Manager of Program Support

Ryan Risdon has over 25 years of rail industry experience including over 22 years with BNSF Railway, and three years as an SLSI hazmat instructor. Starting as a carman in 1997 he held numerous mechanical department positions in the Pacific Northwest, including General Foreman II. Ryan became a hazmat responder for BNSF in 2004, and in 2014 he became the BNSF Manager of Hazardous Materials, Field Operations, and Emergency Response in Denver, CO where he had territory responsibility for CO, WY, and MT. In this position he managed and responded to train accidents and hazmat releases throughout the BNSF system, coordinated and conducted community training, and participated in functional drills and exercises. He has 15 years of fire/EMS response experience as a volunteer firefighter/EMT and is an active National Registry EMT. He holds numerous incident management certificates with practical application. He has completed the FEMA Professional Development Series and is completing a bachelor’s degree in Emergency and Disaster Management in 2023. Ryan can be reached at

John Walsh Director of Hazardous Materials Programs

John Walsh brings a more than 30-year career to the Short Line Safety Institute, including experience in public safety, security, emergency management, homeland security and compliance, including 15 years in the freight rail industry. Walsh most recently served as Assistant Vice President Safety & Security with Genesee & Wyoming Railroad Services, Inc. where he was responsible for risk mitigation, various safety programs, regulatory compliance, and workplace violence prevention and training programs. Prior to that, Walsh spent 13 years with CSX Transportation in a variety of safety and police management roles, and began his public safety career in the NYPD, where he spent 20 years, retiring as a Lieutenant Commander of the Detective Squad overseeing a city-wide technical and investigative support unit. John can be reached at or (202) 567-2824.