Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia’

Virgin Wins Appeals Court Ruling on Use of Bonds

January 2, 2020

Virgin Trains USA may use private activity bonds to finance a extension of its route to Orlando, Florida, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision was issued in late December by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled the U.S. Department of Transportation properly determined that Virgin’s project qualified for private activity bond.

The decision rejected a challenge by Indian River County, Florida. The court ruled that although the county had standing in the case, all of its arguments were without merit.

Among the arguments the court rejected was that bonds can’t be used because they are financing more than highway grade crossing renovations.

The court also turned down Indian River’s contention that the environmental impact statement should have looked more closely at such negative effects as trespassing and noise pollution.

The court noted that Virgin plans to put up fences where trespassing has been shown to have occurred and will place pole-mounted horns at 117 highway crossings between West Palm Beach and Cocoa. That includes 23 grade crossing in Indian River County.

Indian County Administrator Jason Brown said the county may appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court “but we have to evaluate all of our options.”

Virgin plans to upgrade 20 miles of a Florida East Coast Railway line in Vero Beach, including building a second track and upgrading highway grade crossing protections for 110 mph train speeds.

High Court Won’t Hear AAR Passenger Rules Appeal

June 4, 2019

Amtrak and the Association of American Railroads are both claiming victory in the wake of a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to decline to review an appeals court ruling in the long-running battle over the authority of federal regulators to established on-time standards for passenger trains.

The latest action by the high court means that a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that Amtrak and the Federal Railroad Administration may work together to establish on-time metrics to be applied to Amtrak’s host railroads will stand.

The Supreme Court in 2015 had ruled 9-0 that the two could collaborate on those metrics.

However, the DC appeals court has also ruled that part of the 2008 Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court has not overturned that ruling, which was made in July 2018.

The appeals court ruled unconstitutional part of section 207, which gave the U.S. Surface Transportation Board the ability to settle disputes over on-time performance metrics and standards by appointing an arbiter to perform binding arbitration.

The court objected to the use of binding arbitration and said Amtrak could not unilaterally impose metrics and standards on a host railroad over its objections.

That same decision upheld the remainder of section 207, which dictated how on-time metrics could be developed.

It was that part of the appeals court decision that AAR appealed to the Supreme Court.

In reaction to the most recent development, Amtrak said in a statement that it is pleased with the decision and looks forward to working with FRA “to develop clear, efficient and impactful metrics that will lead to better on-time performance for Amtrak customers and the entire rail system.”

The AAR in a statement express disappointment with the high court’s refusal to accept its appeal but said it was pleased that the provision pertaining to metrics and standards remains invalidated.

“Freight railroads are committed to providing efficient and reliable service to all their customers and tenant railroads, and we will work with the FRA and Amtrak in a way that recognizes the importance of moving increased freight volume to help support the U.S. economy,” the AAR said.

The legal battle over the on-time standards dates to 2011 when AAR commenced litigation.

The essence of the latest outcome means that although the previous on-time standards are not longer valid, Amtrak and the FRA will have the opportunity to try again to come up with a different set of standards.

That process is expected to take several months and Amtrak’s host railroads may still be dissatisfied with them and seek to have then struck down in court.

Railway Age Washington reporter Frank N. Wilner said the resulting regulatory proceedings and any subsequent litigation could take up another half a decade.

Wilner speculated that the railroad industry might argue in future court cases that the standards amount to an unconstitutional taking of private property without appropriate compensation.

He said the court have yet to rule on what constitutes a reasonable compensation to remedy freight railroad delays and if such compensation even is recoverable.

Appeals Court Allows FRA to Set On-Time Standards

July 20, 2018

The struggle to create on-time standards for Amtrak took another turn on Friday when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia voted 2-1 in favor of allowing the Federal Railroad Administration to set those standards.

The decision followed earlier setbacks including one in which the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the Surface Transportation Board had exceeded its authority in seeking to set on-time standards.

The legal fight dates to 2011 when the Association of American Railroads commenced legal action to overturn a federal law that allowed Amtrak to participate in the rule-making process.

In a statement, Amtrak hailed the decision of the District of Columbia Court, saying that since the on-time standards law was overturned the passenger carrier has seen continued deterioration of on-time performance over freight railroads driven primarily by freight train interference.

“This decision will allow the FRA to set on-time and other performance standards that would help ensure that our customers and the American taxpayer get the high-quality passenger service they deserve,” Amtrak said in the statement.

The latest decision is not necessarily the last word in the fight. AAR could seek a rehearing by the full appeals court or appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.