Posts Tagged ‘Fixing America’s Transportation Act’

FRA Publishes Rules for Passenger Trial Program

August 5, 2017

The Federal Railroad Administration has established its rules for seeking competitor bids to replace Amtrak on up to three long-distance routes.

The agency published the rules in the Federal Register and they take effect on Sept. 5.

The pilot program is mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act.

The rules establish a petition, notification and bid process as well as establish deadlines for filing petitions and bids and the execution of contracts with winning bidders.

The FAST Act described an “eligible petitioner” for the pilot program as one that owns the relevant rail infrastructure on the route or has a “written agreement” with the rail infrastructure owner.

A winning bidder who doesn’t own the infrastructure must obtain from the owner a written agreement that governs access issues.

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STB Finalizes Passenger Dispute Rules

November 30, 2016

The U.S. Surface Transportation Board has issued its final rule implementing standards for resolving dispute between passenger carriers and their host railroads.

STBThe standards were mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015.

The STB said that “the FAST Act clarified and augmented the Board’s existing adjudicatory responsibilities related to the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak).”

“Specific FAST Act provisions address STB adjudication of disputes regarding Amtrak cost recovery for its operation of state-supported routes, and costs allocated to states in their use of rail facilities for commuter rail operations within the Washington, D.C.-to-Boston Northeast Corridor.”

The FAST Act requires the Board to establish procedures for resolving such disputes, which may include the provision of professional mediation services. The Board said its final rule implements those provisions.

Amtrak Funded for FY 2017

October 6, 2016

Amtrak funding for fiscal year 2017 has been assured as a result of President Barack Obama signing a continuing resolution that will keep the federal government in business through Dec. 9.

Amtrak logoFY 2017 began on Oct. 1 and Amtrak will receive $235 million for the Northeast Corridor and $1.155 billion for the national network for a total of $1.39 billion,

It is the same amount that Amtrak received in FY 2016, but Amtrak is being directed to spend any profits generated by the NEC only on the NEC. Observers say this will result in Amtrak’s total funding being higher.

Amtrak was funded for all of FY 2017 in the continuing resolution because of a provision in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act that requires Amtrak to implement new accounting procedures in 2017.

If Amtrak had been funded for a portion of 2017 but under 2016 funding policies, it would have had to maintain separate but parallel accounting systems in 2017, causing wasted hours of work and millions of dollars in added costs.

Other programs named in the FAST Act that affect intercity passenger rail will need to be funded by the 2017 Transportation-Housing Urban Development appropriations bill that Congress may approve after the November elections.

Metra Seeking Federal Funds to Pay for PTC Installation on Route Used by Amtrak Hiawathas

September 28, 2016

Metra is seeking federal funding to help pay to install positive train control on a line that is used in part by Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service and Empire Builder.

Hiawatha 2The Chicago commuter rail operator plans to spend $25.2 million program to install PTC on its Milwaukee North and West lines.

Metra has asked for funding that was authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act to help railroads install PTC.

The federal government would pay up to 80 percent of the cost and require a 20 percent local funding match.

Metra has asked for $20.2 million and said it has identified $5 million in local matching funds. The PTC system would be installed by late 2018, Metra said.

To date Metra said it has spent $95 million and has $208 million under contract toward PTC installation.

FRA Sets Passenger Route Bidding Standards

June 23, 2016

The Federal Railroad Administration has announced a pilot program to allow independent contractors to bid on operating long-distance passenger trains.

The program was mandated by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which called for bidding to be taken on up to three routes.

FRAThe law calls for the FRA to oversee a program “for selection of eligible petitioners in lieu of Amtrak to operate not more than three long-distance routes.”
Among the key elements of the proposal are:
• The winning bidder would assume the “right and obligation” to operate intercity passenger service over a specific route, and receive an operating fundig not to exceed 90 percent of that provided to Amtrak for that route during the preceding year. The initial contract for each route would extend for four years, with extension subject to transportation department approval.
• Amtrak would be obligated to provide the new operator with access to its own reservation system, stations, and facilities.
• Employees of a new operator would be subject to laws and regulations governing current similar Amtrak employees, and winning bidders must provide hiring preference to displaced, qualified Amtrak workers.
• If an alternate operator fails to provide service, the transportation department, in collaboration with the Surface Transportation Board, would “take any necessary action consistent with the FAST Act to enforce the contract and to ensure the continued provision of service.”

Amtrak will be permitted to bid on continuing to operate certain trains. Bidders could range from Class I railroads to short lines to state-sponsored consortia.

In their proposals, the bidders must explain how they will provide the service (including their on-board services), provide an operating plan and financial plan, give details of agreements for using tracks they do not own and include “ancillary” activities not directly tied to operating the trains.

The U.S. secretary of transportation will review the bids and select the winning operators, a process that could take more than a year to complete.