AR 010 Newsletter stream (Autumn 2016)

The AR 010 Intercity Passenger Rail committee will now stream the newsletter articles on a timely basis, as the articles are created. The publication of the AR 010 newsletter will continue to be published on a semi-annual basis. Joseph Glowitz, Editor

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From the Chair - Transitions

July is for many the laziest of months, a time to step back from work-focused lives and to reconnect with family and friends. It can also be a time for reflection as we consider our values, accomplishments and goals. For intercity passenger rail, it is also a time of high suspense and uncertainty as high-profile initiatives in Florida, Texas and California appear to advance, slowly, but are still short of “signed and sealed” status. Seeing these projects move forward would be, for many of us, confirmation that the US has finally turned the page on initiating the expansion of modern rail systems. Let’s keep our fingers crossed.
This fall Cecilia and I travel to Spain, and (at least for me) travel between major centers on Renfe’s elegant, state-of-the-art HSR routes will be a major highlight of the trip. As you can guess, such experiences are both uplifting and sobering as one can witness first-hand the growing chasm between the US and the rest of the world in passenger rail service standards and investment.
Closer to home, AR010 continues to evolve as I wrap up my final year as your chair. Twelve members joined our group in April, and we are close to the TRB-imposed limits for total committee participants. There are, of course, no limits on “friends” participation and I would encourage all of you non-members to consider registration for this status as a way to stay engaged with our activities. 
Dominic will be working closely with me over the next few months to shore up one of the initiatives that we have long discussed but failed to deliver – better identifying and encouraging the research activities that have specific application to North America. We’ll be working with Valerio, Genaro and new member Rachel Copperman to improve our outreach to universities and the research community early in 2017 in support of that goal. On a related note, Rachel will work closely with Genaro and Valerio to structure and coordinate this fall’s paper review exercise as she transitions to the leadership role for this area.
Many of you have contributed to the broadening of our communications outreach via this newsletter, the AR010 website, and participation in special event and workshop activities. Joe Glowitz has agreed to step into the coordinator role for both the newsletter and website. With Joe’s leadership and active participation by each of you we can continue to enhance our role in providing the “go to” portals for technical information as required for development of intercity passenger rail. Please respond to Joe’s requests as generously as you can.
Finally, we are looking for a new committee secretary. No shorthand required. Camille, who has faithfully carried out this task for longer than she had ever expected, deserves a break. If you are a friend and are willing to take this on it is a good way to become a candidate for the first available full membership position on the committee. No bribery here – just demonstrations of enthusiasm! Send me a note directly: simpsonconsult@comcast.net.

Enjoy the rest of your summer – we will be talking this fall!
David

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California's High Speed Rail Breakthrough for the Americas

Submitted by:

Rod Diridon Sr.

Emeritus Executive Director, Mineta Transportation Institute; California High-Speed Rail Authority Chair Emeritus

Ben Tripousis

Northern California Regional Director, California High-Speed Rail Authority; Director High-Speed Rail Connectivity Center, Mineta Transportation Institute

Background:

The explosion of American rail in the mid to late 1800s molded California. Prior to the introduction of the transcontinental railroad, the trickle of hardy easterners to California barely changed the region's Spanish Colonial culture that had recently been ceded to the United States by Mexico. But the 100 year, old sleepy social and economic system created by the Catholic Franciscans and the Spanish grandees was about to be awakened with the clang of hammers on steel and the urgent, strident, impatient sound of steam!

Tens of thousands of Chinese, Irish, Italian and other immigrant laborers earned their right to US citizenship while binding the country with a “high-speed” rail system.  That new technology traveled as fast as 25 MPH, then 50, 75, and – on a good day with no inspectors watching – over 100 miles per hour using high-pressure steam produced by wood, then coal, then #3 bunker fuel. In the 1950s another wave of innovation caught the old steam “hogheads” by surprise as electricity began to be created by massive diesel-fueled internal combustion engines. A new system, arguably more efficient and flexible but no faster, replaced the water tanks, roundhouses, and massive repair facilities, putting millions of steam rail specialists, who had supported the grand old locomotives for nearly 100 years, out of work.

International Challenge:

But speed had topped out at the 79 MPH maximum that the Federal Railroad Administration deemed safe for most main lines. Then Japan, in the post-WWII embrace of capitalism, decided to create the Shinkansen, “happy wind”, bullet train. Using high-voltage electricity conducted from a charged wire via the train’s overhead catenary; the 135 MPH  Japanese high-speed rail system introduced in October 1964 captivated the world. Note, the modern Shinkansen and most other major high speed trains are now capable of sustained speeds in excess of 200 MPH. It immediately became both an economic success and declaration that Japan had returned as one of the world’s top manufacturing powerhouses. France soon followed with its own high-speed train, à Grande Vitesse (TGV), in 1981, followed in quick succession by Germany, Spain, Italy, Korea, Taiwan, China (the current world leader with over 8,000 high-speed rail track miles) and many others. Indeed, every industrialized and most emerging nations – even a few developing countries – now have high-speed rail systems (300 KPH or 187 MPH is the international HSR standard) in operation or under construction. All, that is, except for the North America.

Early US Attempts: 

The US government began scrambling to catch up as railroads were under pressure to move people and product faster and more efficiently due to competition from the rapidly evolving airline industry. In the late 1950s, the Association of American Railroads (AAR), spurred by Japan’s successful tests of the Shinkansen, called for the nation’s class-one railroads to examine the feasibility of high-speed routes serving major US markets. California’s venerable Southern Pacific Railroad (SPRR), since acquired by Union Pacific (UPRR), assigned the task to James C. Strong, a bright young University of California at Berkeley railroad design engineer. Quoting Mr. Strong from a 2011 letter in the Mineta Transportation Institute’s (MTI) archives:

“A few salient details about the route are: 1) All plotting was done using USGS maps. 2) The SPRR route was used where possible and began in San Francisco south to Tunnel 14 in South San Francisco. 3) From Tunnel 14 the route diverged east across highway 101 to the bay. 4) The route continued in San Francisco Bay on a long trestle on pilings. 5) The route stayed off-shore in the shallow bay until reaching Milpitas in north Santa Clara County. 6) Proceeding south via San Jose and Gilroy on the SPRR tracks the route diverged along SP’s Hollister Line south east along the Salinas River to Tres Pinos. 7) Following one side of the San Andreas Fault, the route crossed Pinoche Pass. 8) The San Joaquin Valley section was flat and straight. 9) The route passed near Coalinga, Taft, and Wheeler Ridge. 10) A 28 mile tunnel was then required leading to Castaic (striking oil was feared in that section). 11) An added five mile tunnel was needed to traverse from Santa Paula Valley to San Fernando Valley. 12) The last section into the LA Union Station used the LAD/W&P and SCE high voltage transmission rights of way and was adjacent to the Los Angeles River at the south end.”

Mr. Strong’s route is slightly shorter than the 2001 route's 790 miles chosen by the California High-Speed Rail Authority which avoids the long bay trestle, serves the rapidly urbanizing north Central Valley/Fresno area, and minimizes the tunnels under the Tehachapi Mountains into the Los Angeles Basin.

Unfortunately, since the federal government had no construction funding at that time, AAR stopped promoting the idea, and SPRR felt that, though high-speed rail was eminently possible and economically viable, the freight railroad had no need for that kind of speed. The bulk of the passenger service was already lost to such emerging competitors as Pacific Southwest Airlines, connecting the state’s largest metro areas, and the highway systems were not yet terribly congested. So Mr. Strong’s study was shelved (though is still available in the MTI and AAR archives) and US high-speed rail languished for decades.

North America, bound by culture and politics to domestically obtained and then-inexpensive petroleum, continued to lumber along at no more than 79 mph.  Burning diesel fuel and creating a higher level of noise, vibrations, and air pollution, by the late 1900s the US rail system was no longer economically or environmentally sustainable and was rapidly becoming an embarrassment when compared to the rest of the world.

That comparison became more prevalent as growing affluence allowed extensive international travel. Governor Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Sr. formalized the comparative opportunity by creating the California Institute for Technology Exchange (CITE) in the 1960s encouraging the exposure of the state’s emerging leaders to new technology throughout the world. Such later luminaries as Jim Costa, Rod Diridon, Richard Katz, Quentin Kopp, Rebecca Morgan, Mehdi Morshed, Lynn Schenk, and others participated in CITE-sponsored high-speed rail inspection trips to Japan and Europe in the 1970s and 1980s, sowing the seeds of interest that resulted in Assembly Bill 971 in 1987. That measure created the High Speed Rail Committee that organized the California High Speed Rail Commission, which later evolved into the 1996 legislation creating the current California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA).

During his first terms as Governor in 1974, Edmund G. “Jerry” Brown, Jr., Pat Brown’s son, signed related legislation calling for a study of high-speed rail's feasibility in California. However, it was not until 1993 that then-Congresswoman Lynn Schenk, often referred to as the “mother of California’s high-speed rail,” co-authored H.R. 4867, the High-Speed Rail Development Act of 1994, the first federal law authorizing the planning and development of high-speed rail. The current California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) was established in 1996 by State Senate Bill 1420 (Chapter 796 of California Statutes).  The CHSRA is legally tasked to design, build, operate and maintain a high-speed train for the state.

Studies and Funding:

Led by former 20-year State Senate Transportation Committee Chief of Staff  Mehdi Morshed, the first Executive Director, and conforming to Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) guidelines, the CHSRA completed the concept study in 2001 followed by the obligatory systems-level alternatives analysis and environmental clearance certified in 2008. Then-State Senator and now-Congressmember Jim Costa passed Senate Bill 1876 in 2002 authorizing an election to approve $9.95 billion in HSR revenue bonds.  Unfortunately, the cost of the 790 mile project identified in the 2002 concept study had ballooned from approximately $25 billion to $46 billion during the more detailed Program EIR, and then to $60+ billion when the specific community requirements (underground and elevated structures) were identified. The costs were then inflated to construction-year (2025 to 2030) dollar values reaching $98 billion as noted in the more conservative 2012 business plan. Through value engineering the project was refocused on the planned 540 mile original operating segment from Anaheim via Los Angeles and the Central Valley to San Jose and San Francisco with the cost reduced to $64 billion in year of expenditure (YOE) dollar values. As a result, the $9.95 billion in state bond revenue approved in 2008 as Proposition 1A, which was to cover 40% of the project, became a significantly smaller portion of the final project’s capital budget. Consequently, Governor Schwarzenegger’s public-private partnership (PPP) concept was more urgently needed and began to be carefully planned.

The PPP concept was to augment President Obama’s $3.3 billion grant to CHSRA from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009 and the 2014 dedication by Governor Jerry Brown and the state legislature of 25% of the state’s cap-and-trade funds for the next 30 years to the project (though the cap-and-trade program must be reauthorized by 2022). Coupled with the 2008 Proposition 1A HSR bonds, the total currently available is projected to near $30 billion.

Construction Sequence:

The 2008 systems level environmental clearance approved the route, mode (steel wheel) and station locations.  That foundation transitioned to five corridor segments for the project level environmental clearance to select and design the best construction alternative (elevated, at-grade, trenched or tunnel) for every portion of the system.  That time consuming and expensive effort was completed in 2014 for most of the 120 mile Central Valley portion from Modesto south to just north of Bakersfield. Construction contracts nearing $4 billion and over 10% below engineer’s estimates are well advanced suggesting that the project will stay under budget and on schedule. 

After reevaluating the frequently updated business plan, in 2016 the CHSRA Board decided to invest the remaining secure funds to connect the Central Valley with Silicon Valley, the north state's largest trip-generator, to create the first independently operating segment.  The final project level environmental clearance and engineering is being completed for that “Valley to Valley” connection from the Central Valley segment at the Chowchilla Wye south of Merced then west in tunnels under the Pacheco Pass to Gilroy then north to San Jose. Operations are expected to begin from Bakersfield through the Central Valley to San Jose by 2025 and to San Francisco via the soon-to-be electrified Caltrain line.

Book Ends:

It is important to note that while high-speed rail is the focal point of the California investment, the overall effort is aimed at statewide rail modernization. The HSR project is vital to the state’s future mobility but cannot reach optimum potential without improvements to the regional rail feeder systems that connect to the high-speed backbone. Two primary elements are the “book ends”, the Caltrain system from San Jose to San Francisco in the north and the MetroLink system in the south between Los Angeles and Anaheim.  CHSRA funds will upgrade and, for Caltrain, electrify the systems for “blended” or shared use with the electric commuter rail trains operating with positive train control protections. CHSRA funds and leadership are also being invested in the 24 station areas’ plans and the improvement of local transit feeder systems.   Some of the stations, such as San Francisco’s TransBay Terminal and the Los Angeles Union Station are well advanced while others are in the early stages of planning such as the San Jose Diridon and the Fresno stations. The realization that high speed rail will occur has station cities all over California scrambling to catch up.

Legal Issues: 

Large infrastructure projects, especially those subject to CEQA and NEPA, attract lawsuits, and that has certainly been the case with the 20-year effort to design the California’s high-speed rail system.  Note that a project no less venerable than the Golden Gate Bridge was challenged by more than 2,300 lawsuits filed by the time the project commenced construction in 1934. Each was won or settled by the time the bridge was completed in 1937. The dozen or so lawsuits brought against the CHSRA to date have either been settled or ruled in favor of the project. The State Supreme Court has declined to hear appeals. The courts have declined to invalidate current contracts or impede future contracting and the sale of the HSR bonds has been affirmed. Recently the federal Surface Transportation Board has also assumed review authority over the project providing a partial buffer against frivolous legal action.

Leadership the Key:

Five of the nine members of the CHSRA Board are appointed by the governor and two by the leader of the each legislative body. Governors Wilson (R), Davis (D), Schwarzenegger (R), and Brown’s (D) appointments have reflected the state’s bipartisan support of high speed rail. Recent national partisan fervor has polarized the state legislature though a majority plus the Governor, supported by statewide polls, continuing to favor high speed rail. The CHSRA Board chairs have been pivotal. A few standouts might include inaugural chair Michael Tennenbaum whose board was yet to be completely sold on the idea. Rod Diridon’s iron willed reinvigoration of the board in the early 2000s was noteworthy as was Curt Pringle’s determination to have the system reach Anaheim as quickly as possible.  But the game was changed in 2010 by current Chair Dan Richard and the selection of former Caltrans Director Jeff Morales for the strengthened CEO position. That team, plus Mike Rossi, Lynn Schenk and other Jerry Brown appointees, are delivering an operating segment of the Governor’s visionary project with the funds available and in the shortest possible time.

Conclusion:

The California high-speed rail project has achieved a critical mass not yet seen for HSR in North America. But is high-speed rail right for California? The question is not only can we do it, but should we? The authors of this article believe the answer is a resounding yes.

First, traffic congestion continues to be a growing crisis in California. Six of the thirty most congested areas in the country are located in California. The Silicon Valley Leadership Group recently released a survey of member CEOs – heads of the top 400 companies in the Bay Area (among them, Apple, Facebook, Google, HP, Intel, Yahoo, and others). These corporate leaders rated traffic congestion among the most challenging issues in maintaining a business and promoting economic expansion. Further, three of the nation's five most heavily traveled Amtrak routes are in California (Capitol Corridor, Coast Starlight, and the San Joaquin Regional Rail System). Californians have been compelled to seek new travel modes to avoid ever-increasing roadway congestion and California’s Millennials are embracing the rail-riding ethic.

Second, California has one of the most congested airline corridors in the world. Nearly 40% of flights originating at Bay Area airports land in Southern California. Literature reviews by the Mineta Transportation Institute at San Jose State University note that, in regions where high-speed rail has been introduced, most mid distance (100 to 600 miles) travel has shifted from congested and polluting airports to rail. In the past ten years Amtrak’s ACELA higher speed train’s market share jumped from 37% to 75% of the total trips between New York and Washington DC. Between New York and Boston the increase was from 20% to over 54%. An even more pronounced change occurred between London, Paris, and Brussels when the “Chunnel” was completed. Downtown-to-downtown on trains instead of planes is the new mantra, especially for business travelers.

Finally, projected population growth for California over the next thirty years continues to be explosive (38 million in 2010 to over 60 million projected by the 2060s). That growth must be served with new transportation options as traditional modes are buried under demand-induced congestion. Funding is insufficient, and, even if available, highway lane expansion space does not exist entering the state’s metropolitan areas. Even if expansion space did exist, in order to achieve the equivalent transportation capacity that will be provided by the California High-Speed Rail project, California would have to construct over 4,300 miles of new roadways, 115 new airline gates, and at least 4 new airport runways. Those improvements would cost over three times the current $64 billion price tag for high-speed rail without any benefit to the environment.

In short, the $250 billion cost of meeting the burgeoning trip demand by building more highways and airports is multiple times higher than that needed to build the high speed rail and feeder systems.  And the highways and airports would be beyond capacity again in 50 years requiring another huge investment of funds to meet the demands of the second half of the 21st century.  High speed rail and the feeder lines can double and triple capacity by inexpensively adding trains to the tracks instead of building expensive additional right-of-ways.  So the horrendous cost of temporarily meeting the burgeoning population’s demand for highway and airport capacity would, at a fraction of that cost, be instead met for the next century by building sustainable transit systems. And the lynch-pin of that long-term, less expensive and visionary remedy is the clean, green electrically-powered high speed rail system.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy spoke before the Irish Parliament of the importance of looking to the future. He said of Ireland, “This is an extraordinary country. George Bernard Shaw, speaking as an Irishman, summed up an approach to life: Other people, he said, ‘see things as they are and … say “Why?” ... But I dream things that never were – and I say: “Why not?”’ It is that quality of the Irish – that remarkable combination of hope, confidence, and imagination – that is needed more than ever today.”

Kennedy went on to say, “The problems of the world cannot possibly be solved by skeptics or cynics, whose horizons are limited by obvious realities. We need men [and women] who can dream of things that never were and ask, why not?” Governor Jerry Brown has declared emphatically that, “It is time for California to do great things again.” We built the Golden Gate Bridge and the Bay Bridge during the deepest darkest depression in our history and recently rebuilt the eastern span of the Bay Bridge during the worst recession in our history. Our parents and grandparents built the University of California system, the California State University system, and the State Water Project – improvements that have made California the world leader in technology, agriculture, and public policy, with an economy that leads the nation in fiscal responsibility. 

In the end, high-speed rail is about choosing our future and having the confidence in ourselves to make that future wonderful. We are living off an infrastructure built five generations ago. High-speed rail is a premier requirement for the environmental and competitive survival of California as the eighth-largest economy in the world. California has a history of building legacy projects, and we have an obligation to leave a better state than the one we inherited, despite the challenges ahead. It is time for our generation to continue that tradition and establish California’s legacy for the next hundred years.

References:

Due to the vast volume of material involved, this article will have no standard end-notes or references other than to refer the reader to the websites for the California High-Speed Rail Authority and the Mineta Transportation Institute. The article is based on excerpts from Chapter 2 (California's “Fast-Track” to High-Speed Rail: The Early Challenges and Ultimate Success of the California High-Speed Rail Project authored by Diridon and Tripousis)  of the new book, Emerging Challenges and Opportunities of High Speed Rail Development on Business and Society, edited by R. Selladurai, P.D. Lee, and G. VandeWerken, Copyright 2016,  IGI Global. http://www.igi-global.com/book/emerging-challenges-opportunities-high-speed/142131.

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Congress and President Pass Multi-Year Rail Authorization: First Ever Included In Multi-modal Reauthorization

(Source: Federal Railroad Administration - www.fra.gov/fastact)

Submitted by: Eric Peterson

On December 4, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act (P.L. 114-94) or FAST ACT. The Act provides the first long-term Federal transportation bill in more than 10 years.  The FAST Act authorizes $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) rail, highway, motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, research, technology and statistics programs.  The Act also marks the first time intercity passenger rail programs have been Included in a comprehensive, multimodal surface transportation authorization bill, authorizing more than $ 10 Billion for intercity passenger and freight rail grants. The measure authorizes funding for five years for Amtrak and other passenger rail programs from general funds through the regular annual appropriations process rather than from the Highway Trust Fund. Amtrak was authorized $ 8.05 Billion, grants for new or improved rail service were authorized $ 2.2 Billion, and commuter rail Positive Train Control compliance grants were authorized $ 199 million.

Safety Passenger Rail Safety Requirements

The Act includes provisions that address rail safety by requiring all passenger railroads to install inward-facing cameras to better monitor train crews and assist in accident investigations, and outward-facing cameras to better monitor track conditions. Passenger railroads are required to install alerters on older locomotives and develop speed limit action plans.  The Act increases the passenger rail liability cap from $200 million to $295 million and applies the increase to the Amtrak accident with an inflation cap provision in place.

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Requirements

The Act includes several provisions to improve the safety of highway-rail grade crossings, such as railway grade crossing safety action plans, effectiveness of Positive Train Control at highway-rail grade crossing and the evaluation of locomotive horns at railway crossings.

 

Positive Train Control

The Act provides $199 million from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund for fiscal year 2017 to assist commuter railroads with PTC implementation.  

Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP)

The Act focuses on the safe transportation of energy products.  Provisions requires new tank cars to be equipped with “insulating blankets”, mandates all legacy DOT-111 tank cars in flammable liquids service to be upgraded to new retrofit standards regardless of the product shipped, sets minimum requirements for the protection of certain top-fitting tank car valves, requires reporting on the industry-wide progress and capacity to modify DOT-111 tank cars, requires a derailment test and an independent evaluation to investigate braking technology requirements for the movement of trains carrying certain hazardous materials, and requires Class I railroads to generate accurate, real-time, and electronic train data.

Amtrak Provisions

The Act authorizes a total of $8.1 billion for Amtrak through 2020 under a new structure that includes $2.6 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $5.45 billion for the National Network.  This new account structure, when combined with new planning and reporting requirements focused on Amtrak’s business lines and asset categories, to improve the transparency of Amtrak funding and the delivery of its services. The contain Act s several other Amtrak or NEC-related provisions, including a State-Supported Route Committee composed of Amtrak, FRA, USDOT and the states to promote cooperation and planning related to Amtrak’s 29 state-supported routes.  A Pilot Program to have Amtrak initiate programs to offer local food/beverage products on state-supported trains and allow passengers to transport cats and dogs as well as studies to improve Amtrak performance and NEC operations and capital project delivery.

Rail Development Grants and Policy

The Act authorizes $ 2.2 Billion over five years for three new competitive rail development grant programs that build off of the Administration’s previous $ 10 Billion investment through the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program. This three part program includes Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (Sec. 11301) to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of passenger and freight rail systems.  The second part is a Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair (Sec. 11302) to reduce the state of good repair backlog on publically owned or Amtrak-owned infrastructure, equipment, and facilities.  The third program is the Restoration and Enhancement Grants (Sec. 11303), to provide operating assistance to initiate, restore, or enhance intercity passenger rail transportation. Grants are limited to three years of operating assistance per route and may not be renewed. In addition to the three new competitive grant programs authorized, the Act contains several other provisions intended to enhance the development and delivery of passenger and freight rail services, including the development of a Gulf Coast Rail Service Working Group to evaluate the restoration of intercity passenger rail service in the Gulf Region between Los Angeles, New Orleans and Orlando, Florida and a shared-use study to evaluate the operational, institutional, and legal structures that would best support passenger and freight rail services operating over shared-use infrastructure.

Financing Programs

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program provides direct federal loans and loan guarantees to finance the development of railroad infrastructure by streamilining the loan approval process, increase access to the program, and fund a wider array of projects. This includes procedures and measures to economize the time and cost involved in obtaining an approval or a disapproval of an application for a direct loan or loan guarantee, expanding applicant eligibility to allow for joint ventures, authorizing financing for transit-oriented development, and clarifying that pre-construction activities, such as planning and design, may be financed, and allowing the USDOT the ability to enter into Master Credit agreements. The Act establishes the National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau within the USDOT to provide assistance and communicate best practices regarding DOT financing and funding opportunities.

Project Delivery 

The Act contains a number of project delivery reforms to reduce duplication of environmental reviews and enhance interagency coordination and information is available at www.fra.gov/fastact. The Act reforms certain elements of FRA’s environmental and historic preservation review processes to help accelerate the delivery of rail projects.  Such reforms include an historic rail and transit line exemption from the requirements, can exemption for railroads rights-of-way consistent with the existing exemption for the Interstate Highway System and, categorical exclusions and a rulemaking for new and existing categorical exclusions.  

Status of FRA FY 2017 Appropriation

The Act fundamentally altered the structure of federal passenger rail programs, dividing federal grants for Amtrak into two new accounts (Northeast Corridor and National Network) and creating three new grant programs for which Amtrak is also eligible. Currently the Administration proposal ($ 6 Billion) is in conference with the House and Senate versions for appropriation

 

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