Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

FRA Releases Criteria for Corridor Program

May 16, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration last week published in the Federal Register its guidelines for its Corridor Identification Program.

The program was established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and allocated $1.8 billion in funding.

Eligible corridors must be less than 750 miles; an enhancement of an existing route of less than 750 miles; the restoration of service over all or portions of a route formerly operated by Amtrak; or an increase of service frequency of a long-distance intercity passenger-rail route.

By law eligible entities that may participate in the program include Amtrak, states, groups of states, entities implementing interstate compacts, regional passenger-rail authorities, regional planning organizations, political subdivisions of a state, federally recognized Indian Tribes and possibly other entities.

The FRA expects to begin soliciting proposals to participate in the program during the last quarter of this year.

The guidelines published by the FRA sets forth 14 criteria that will be used to evaluate corridors.

These include whether the route was identified as part of a regional or interregional planning study; projected ridership, revenues, capital investment, and operating funding requirements; anticipated environmental, congestion mitigation and other public benefits; projected trip times and their competitiveness with other transportation modes; anticipated positive economic and employment impacts; committed or anticipated non-federal funding for operating and capital costs; and benefits to rural communities.

Also among the criteria are whether the corridor is included in a state’s approved state rail plan; whether the corridor serves historically unserved or underserved and low-income communities or areas of persistent poverty; whether the corridor would benefit or improve connectivity with existing or planned transportation services of other modes; whether the corridor connects at least 2 of the 100 most populated metropolitan areas; whether the corridor would enhance the regional equity and geographic diversity of intercity passenger rail service; whether the corridor is or would be integrated into the national rail passenger transportation system and would create benefits for other passenger rail routes and services; and whether a passenger rail operator has expressed support for the corridor.

FRA officials said the agency will “work with the entity that submitted the proposal, the relevant states, and, as appropriate, Amtrak to prepare or update a service development plan.”

FRA Revises WUS Redevelopment Plans

May 13, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration has revised the redevelopment plans for Washington Union Station to provide less emphasis on automobile traffic.

The agency acted after receiving widespread criticism that the plan was too automobile-centric.

The revised design eliminates a planned six-story 1,575-space parking garage that local officials had said would lead to more traffic gridlock.

Also opposed to the garage was the Washington Union Station Redevelopment Corporation, which operates the station.

Critics said most users of Union Station do not arrive by private automobile at the station, which is Amtrak’s second busiest. The depot also serves MARC and Virginia Railway Express commuter trains and is a stop for the Washington Metro public transit trains.

The FRA’s latest plan for the station, which opened in 1907 and was rehabilitated in the 1980s, calls for an underground parking garage with half the capacity of the now scrapped above-ground parking facility.

The new plan will also provide space for passenger drop-offs and pickups by taxis and private ride-hailing services.

FRA officials said they will be seeking additional public comment on the station redevelopment plan in the coming weeks.

The $10 billion project will include a new train hall and concourses, more tracks, and enlarged retail space. It is expected to take 10 years to complete.

Biden Wants Increase in Transportation Spending

March 30, 2022

The Biden administration has proposed increasing funding on railroad and public transit programs in federal fiscal year 2023 in a $5.79 trillion budget proposal.

The administration sent its budget recommendations to Congress this week.

Biden proposed spending $105 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation along with another $37 billion in advance appropriations provided for by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The budget calls for $4.66 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration. The agency received $2.86 billion in the past two fiscal years.

Amtrak would get $3 billion, including $1.8 billion for the national network and $1.2 billion for the Northeast Corridor.

The Federal Transit Administration would receive $16.87 billion, which includes $300 million for rail car replacement.

Some funding in the proposed FTA budget would cover work on the Portal North Bridge replacement project in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and $100 for engineering work on the Hudson Tunnels project between New York City and New Jersey.

Other notable transportation funding includes $2.85 billion for Capital Investment Grants, $500 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants, $555 million for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, $245 million for the Railroad Crossing Elimination program, and $1.5 billion for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grants and the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance Grant program,

The figures for those programs do not include funding authorized by the infrastructure act approved last year. All funding proposals are subject to congressional approval.

Grant Released for 2nd Chicago-St. Paul Train

March 13, 2022

State departments of transportation in Wisconsin and Minnesota have received a federal grant of $31.8 million that will be used toward development of a second Amtrak train between Chicago and Twin Cities.

The funding will used to pay for station and rail segment improvements on a Canadian Pacific route also used by the Empire Builder and Hiawatha Service trains.

The new Chicago-St. Paul, Minnesota, train is expected to begin service by 2024 although officials said it could be sooner.

A news release said the funding will ease rail traffic congestion, modernize some sections of track, and speed the movement of freight trains along the 411-mile route.

Studies have projected a second train between Chicago and St. Paul would draw more than 124,000 passengers during its first year of operation.

The grant funding comes from the FRA’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

Trains in the Chicago-St. Paul corridor are expected to depart in the morning and midday.

FRA Calls Meeting on Safety in South Florida

February 22, 2022

Amtrak and intercity rail operator Brightline officials will meet with the Federal Railroad Administration to discuss railroad safety issues.

Also joining the meeting will be officials of CSX, commuter agency Tri-Rail and local government officials.

The meeting was called by the agency after a spate of fatal accidents involving Brightline passenger trains.

There have been seven fatal grade-crossing incidents since last November and 57 since Brightline launched service.

An FRA spokesman noted that none of the incidents stemmed from a failure by railroads to follow federal regulations.

Some possible actions that may follow from this week’s meeting is law enforcement agencies seeking federal grants to address right-of-way safety issues and citing motorists for failure to obey state traffic laws.

3 Trains Were Most Delayed, FRA Says

February 16, 2022

Three Amtrak trains led the list of most delayed trains during the fourth quarter of 2021, the Federal Railroad Administration said on Monday.

In a report showing performance and service quality of intercity passenger train operations, the Cardinal (Chicago-New York), Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and Texas Eagle (Chicago-San Antonio) had the most delays.

The FRA used standards and metrics that it issued in November 2020 to compile the report.

The agency found Amtrak trains experienced more than 1.2 million minutes of delay during the fourth quarter, up 37 percent from the previous quarter.

Delays system-wide rose 33 percent at 8,168,324 train-miles. The FRA rules track delays by 40 categories, but the top three during the fourth quarter were those attributed to a host railroad, those attributed to Amtrak and those attributed to a third party. The latter includes weather-related delays.

The FRA said freight train interference accounted for 22 percent of delay minutes, an increase of 36 percent from the previous quarter.

Delays by train included the Cardinal (87,123 minutes), Sunset Limited (67,300 minutes), and Texas Eagle (42,965 minutes).

The report also found Amtrak ridership increased 48 percent during the fourth quarter to 5.1 million passengers.

FRA Seeks Comments on Passenger Corridors

February 9, 2022

A request for information was issued this week by the Federal Railroad Administration as part of its effort to identify intercity passenger-rail corridors for development.

The Corridor Identification and Development Program was authorized by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

FRA officials said the program will create a framework for the development of new, enhanced and restored intercity passenger-rail corridors throughout the country.

In its request for information, the FRA said written comments, which are due by March 9, should explain how the program can best serve stakeholders and the public in corridor development.

FRA Urged to Create Rail Study Group

January 22, 2022

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators has asked the Federal Railroad Administration to establish a group to study potential intercity rail passenger service to the Pacific Northwest.

In particular, the group would consider the establishment of service along the route once used by Amtrak’s North Coast Hiawatha between Chicago and Seattle.

That train, which was discontinued in early October 1979 as part of an Amtrak route restructuring prompted by a reduction in the passenger carrier’s federal aid, used a former Northern Pacific route through southern Montana and central North Dakota.

The proposed Greater Northwest Working Group would be given a mandate to “expedite” the establishment of service within the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The group would review existing Amtrak long-distance service, explore options to restore additional routes, and find ways for Amtrak to work with local organizations.

Already a Montana group, the Big Sky Passenger Rail Authority, is working to restore rail passenger service to the former North Coast Hiawatha route.

The authority is comprised of several counties that lie along the route.

The route once used by the North Coast Hiawatha is operated in much of Montana by Montana Rail Link, which leases track from BNSF.

BNSF owns the rest of the former North Coast Hiawatha route and recently announced it would take track back from Montana Rail Link, effectively putting the regional carrier out of business.

It is not clear how BNSF’s plans might affect efforts to restore rail passenger service. The plan still needs to win approval of the U.S. Surface Transportation Board and it is unclear when BNSF will seek that.

Atlanta-Charlotte Preferred Route Chosen

July 21, 2021

Transportation officials have identified the path that high-speed rail service will take between Atlanta and Charlotte, North Carolina.

However, funding of the service remains elusive.

A preferred route between the two cities is part of the Atlanta to Charlotte Passenger Rail Corridor Investment Plan being overseen by the Georgia Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration.

Three routes were studied with the preferred route serving  Greenville and Spartanburg, South Carolina.

The 274-mile preferred route is what FRA refers to as the Greenfield Corridor, which begins at Charlotte Gateway Station and ends at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The route could have two stations in South Carolina, three in North Carolina, and five in Georgia.

Much of the route would be a dedicated passenger alignment between Charlotte Douglas International Airport and northeast Atlanta with speeds of up to 125 mph for diesel-powered trains and 220 mph for electric trains.

Planner said they will identify the specific alignment for the Greenfield Corridor alternative, including the final approaches into Atlanta and Charlotte in a future study.

The FRA said the Atlanta-Charlotte line is part of what is envisioned as a rail passenger corridor that will connect Atlanta and Washington.

NEC Improvements Projects Plan Released

July 21, 2021

A 15-year $117 billion plan for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor has been released by the Northeast Corridor Commission.

The plan, which the commission billed as the most ambitious reinvestment program in the corridor’s history, encompasses 150 projects and capital renewal efforts.

In a statement, the commission said it hopes the plan, if implemented, will result in a modern and resilient railroad with safe, reliable, and more frequent service; connections to new markets; and reduced travel times between communities.

“Improving the NEC rail system is a vital multistate effort,” said Amit Bose, deputy administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and NEC Commission co-chair.

The plan, known as C35, is described as the first phase of the long-term vision for the corridor established in the Federal Railroad Administration’s 2017 NEC FUTURE plan to make significant improvements to NEC rail service for both existing and new riders, on both commuter-rail systems and Amtrak.

Among the projects cited in the plan are cutting the Amtrak Acela travel time between Washington and New York by 26 minutes, increasing Amtrak Northeast Regional service levels by 33 percent, and doubling service for several commuter railroads.