Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

Bose Confirmed as FRA Administrator

January 13, 2022

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed Amit Bose as administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

Bose was nominated to the post last April and is the 15th person to serve as administrator.

He had been serving as deputy administrator and succeeded Ronald Batory, who stepped down as administrator in early 2021.

Before coming to the FRA Bose worked at architectural and engineering firm HNTB, and served the FRA’s during the Obama administration as director of governmental affairs, senior advisor, chief counsel, and deputy administrator.

He also once worked for New Jersey Transit, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, and as a congressional staff member.

FRA Has $198M for Passenger Rail Grants

December 8, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration announced this week it will take applications for a share of $198 million it has in grant funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant Program.

Grants can be used to repair or rebuild qualified intercity passenger railroad infrastructure and assets.

In a news release, FRA said the funding could be used for capital projects involving Amtrak or publically-owned railroad infrastructure used for passenger service.

FRA said eligible applicants may seek to replace existing assets in-kind or with new ones that increase capacity or provide a higher level of service; ensure that service can be maintained while existing assets are brought to a state of good repair; and bring existing assets to a state of good repair.

The funding notice also makes some incidental capital project expenses eligible for funding, including designing, engineering, location surveying, mapping, environmental studies and acquiring rights-of-way.

The federal share of a project’s total cost must not exceed 80 percent and the required 20 percent non-federal share may be composed of public sector or private sector funding, or both.

Applicants who propose the federal share of the project is 50 percent or less will receive preference in the selection process.

Shorts Urged to Make a Case on Crew Size

November 20, 2021

A key Federal Railroad Administration manager has invited short line and regional railroads to make the case for having crew sizes below the federal minimum.

As reported by Trains magazine, Amit Bose, FRA’s deputy administrator said during a speech to the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association that the agency is considering creating a rule for minimum crew size that will allow for exceptions.

“If you make a safety case, you will be able to go below the crew size that is minimum,”  he said.

Noting that some short lines already operate below minimum crew sizes, Bose said, “If you have a safety case, make it. FRA will listen to it.”

Other rules that the FRA is considering, he said, will address locomotive recording devices, fatigue risk-management plans, and alcohol and drug testing for maintenance of way workers.

A Railroad Safety Advisory Committee may be revived

FRA Warns NS About Conductor Training

November 2, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration has warned Norfolk Southern about shortcomings in the railroad’s conductor-certification program.

A story posted on the website of Trains magazine said the warning came in a letter from FRA Deputy Administrator Amit Bose.

The letter cited a series of incidents in which employees who were certified conductors with less than a year of service were struck by moving railroad equipment and suffered serious injuries.

The FRA called on NS to take action to avoid future incidents as well as reviewing its conductor training practices with an eye toward correcting training deficiencies.

The story can be read at https://www.trains.com/trn/news-reviews/news-wire/fra-letter-warns-norfolk-southern-about-conductor-training-safety-deficiencies/

FRA Releases Midwest Passenger Rail Plan

October 14, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday released an ambitious plan for intercity rail passenger service expansion in the Midwest.

The Midwest Regional Rail Plan calls for a network of high-speed trains serving four core corridors linking Chicago with Indianapolis, Detroit, St. Louis, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

These core routes would have a series of connecting regional lines. Service on the core routes would be 24 trains a day while the regional lines would feature 15 trains a day.

The plan envisions all routes being integrated with public transit systems. Ridership is projected to reach 17 million annual trips by 2055 if all routes and connections are developed.

FRA deputy administrator Amit Bose discussed the plan at a news conference on Wednesday at Chicago Union Station.

He and others then boarded an Amtrak Wolverine Service train to attend the annual Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission meeting in Detroit.

An FRA news release described the plan as the culmination of a cooperative effort involving the agency and MIPRC, and developed in partnership with 12 state departments of transportation, as well as Amtrak, freight railroads, transit organizations, councils of government, metropolitan planning organizations, chambers of commerce, regional railroads and advocacy groups.

Amtrak’s Midwest network currently has routes linking Chicago with Milwaukee; Quincy, Illinois; St. Louis; Carbondale, Illinois; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Port Huron, Michigan; and Detroit (Pontiac).

Another route links St. Louis and Kansas City. Service on all corridors is funded by the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Missouri.

Ann Arbor’s New Amtrak Depot Plans Got Too Big and Expensive

September 7, 2021

In the wake of a decision by the Federal Railroad Administration to pull out of a project to build a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, city officials are seeking ways to keep the project going, including reducing the project’s scope.

Work on getting a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor began about a decade ago.

At the time, then Mayor John Hieftje projected the station would cost $30 million and the city would pay less than $3 million of that with the federal government picking up most of the tab.

Hieftje expected to do what Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit, did in building a new $28.2 million Amtrak station with federal stimulus money paying for most of it.

But over time the size of the proposed Ann Arbor station expanded and so did its costs. After cost estimates reached $171 million, the FRA backed away.

News accounts of the FRA’s decision focused on the agency’s belief that the station would have too much parking for intercity rail service.

But Amtrak passengers were not expected to be the only user of the station.

At one time local government planning agencies in Ann Arbor, Detroit and other communities along with the Michigan Department of Transportation were eyeing creating a commuter rail service.

The University of Michigan offered to buy commuter train tickets for its employees in lieu of them buying parking permits on the crowded campus.

MDOT acquired a fleet of passenger cars that would be used for the service.

The expectation of commuter rail service was the major deciding factor for locating the new station in Fuller Park next to the University of Michigan Hospital.

Rather than paying $1,000 a year for a parking pass, employees would be able to ride free on a commuter train.

Heiftjie noted that tens of thousands of daily commuters have jobs in Ann Arbor. City officials saw an opportunity to create a place where more people could travel without cars and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
The UM hospital is the most visited place in Ann Arbor on a daily basis.

But the commuter rail concept collapsed after Michigan voters rejected a bond issue that would have funded development of the service.

All along, city planners had seen the station as a two-phase development with the second phase hinging on the creating of the commuter rail service.

The proposed station would have a parking deck with 1,300 spaces, although most of those spaces were expected to be used by commuter train passengers.

But other design features also drove up costs, including elevating the station and building a bridge over the tracks. Another considerable expense included constructing a retaining wall to stabilize the slope leading to the UM hospital.

But most of the expense of the project involved the parking deck, including elevator/stair towers and a metal fin design to soften the deck’s appearance and make it look like “an art object.”

A first floor bus station was also included in the plans as well as a bicycle maintenance and storage area.
In pulling out of the project, the FRA described the project costs as being “an order of magnitude higher” than other stations the agency had funded.

Heiftjie has since left office and his successor as mayor, Christopher Taylor, continued to support building a new Amtrak station.

The city’s current station is located west of the former Michigan Central depot, which is now a restaurant.

Built in 1982, city officials consider the station too cramped given the level of ridership there.

Ann Arbor is the busiest passenger rail station in Michigan although it suffered significant ridership losses during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ridership of the Wolverine Service route between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) in 2020 was 278,450 compared with 990,068 in 2019. In Ann Arbor ridership fell from 154,813 in 2019 to 41,013 last year.

Hieftjie said he doesn’t regret pushing the project even though in hindsight he believes the city tried to go too big in recent years and proposed too much parking.

He said when he began pushing the project it was a different world and he had high hopes for significant growth in rail ridership.

Now Hieftjie is not so sure that could happen due to changes brought about by COVID-19.

“The environment has changed,” he said. “We’re obviously in a whole different period. Due to COVID, people are not riding trains like they used to. I think it’s going to be a while before people return to transit.”

Ann Arbor Station Project Derailed by FRA

August 27, 2021

Years of effort to develop a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, Michigan, may have hit a dead end after the Federal Railroad Administration pulled out of the project.

The agency cited high costs and unacceptable design features, including too much parking, for halting work on the environmental assessment of the project.

Ann Arbor Mayor Christopher Taylor called the FRA’s action an “unwelcome surprise.”

He will seek the assistance of Michigan’s congressional delegation to try to get the FRA decision reversed. The city also is seeking the help of the Michigan Department of Transportation.

Taylor said the existing Amtrak station in Ann Arbor is inadequate.

Efforts to create a new Amtrak station in Ann Arbor, which is served by Wolverine Service trains between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac) go back at least a decade.

The city wants to put the new station in Fuller Park, a 60-acre recreation area location next to the University of Michigan medical center.

The plan is to place the station over the tracks, something the FRA said has resulted in high design costs. The agency also said the number of parking spaces planned for the facility exceed intercity passenger rail needs.

The station is estimated to cost $14.7 million, with another $86 million required for the first phase of construction.

Ann Arbor officials want the federal government to provide much of the funding of the project.

FRA to Take Applications for CRISI Grants

August 27, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration will be taking application soon for the fiscal year 2021 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety grant program.

The agency plans to publish on Aug. 31 a notice of funding opportunity. This year’s grant program has $362 million to award to eligible projects.

To be eligible applicants must demonstrate that their projects reduce congestion; address highway-rail grade crossings; upgrade short line and regional railroad infrastructure; relocate rail lines; improve intercity passenger rail capital assets; target trespassing; enhance multi-modal connections; and facilitate service integration between rail and other modes, such as at ports or intermodal facilities.

FRA officials said applications will be evaluated on how they foster safety and equitable economic strength; improve core assets and ensure racial equity and economic inclusion; address climate change and resilience; and modernize the nation’s transportation infrastructure.

A quarter of the grant money is set aside for rural projects, another $75 million is for projects that support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes, including alignments for existing routes; and $25 million is earmarked for capital projects and engineering solutions targeting rail trespassing.

FRA Revises Rules on PTC Reporting

July 31, 2021

The Federal Railroad Administration has revised its rules governing changes to positive train control systems and railroad reporting on PTC system performance.

In a notice published July 27 in the Federal Register, the FRA said it recognizes the railroad industry intends to enhance FRA-certified PTC systems to continue improving rail safety and PTC technology’s reliability and operability.

The agency said it is changing the process by which a host railroad must submit a request for amendment to the FRA before the railroad makes changes to its PTC safety plan and FRA-certified PTC system.

The rule also expands an existing reporting requirement by increasing the frequency from annual to biannual.

The change also broadens the reporting requirement to encompass positive performance-related information, including about the technology’s positive impact on rail safety, not just failure-related information.

The new rules will go into effect on Aug. 26.

House Budget Bill Boosts Transportation Spending

July 20, 2021

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a spending bill for fiscal year 2022 that would boost spending on transportation programs over FY2021 levels.

The bill, known as the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies legislation provides an increase of $1.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

USDOT is allocated $105.7 billion in budgetary resources, a 22 percent increase above the FY2021 enacted level ($86.7 billion) and the President Joseph Biden’s FY2022 budget request of $87 billion.

Among the spending levels authorized for transportation programs are:

• $1.2 billion for National Infrastructure Investments, a 20 percent increase from FY 2021. It includes $20 million for Transportation Planning Grants to assist areas of persistent poverty, a 100 percent increase over FY 2021. An additional $100 million is included for a new grant program to “spur thriving communities nationwide.”

•$4.1 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, up 46 percent from FY 2021. This includes $625 million for the new Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion (PRIME) grant program “to support projects that improve, expand or establish passenger rail service”; $500 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program, a 33 percent increase from FY 2021; $2.7 billion for Amtrak, a 35 percent boost over FY 2021, which includes $1.2 billion for Northeast Corridor Grants and $1.5 billion for National Network Grants.

• $15.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, including $12.2 billion for Transit Formula Grants to expand bus fleets and increase the transit state of good repair; $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants to construct more than 23 new transit routes nationwide, a 22 percent increase above the FY 2021 enacted level and equal to the president’s budget request; and $580 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants to purchase more than 300 zero-emission buses and 400 diesel buses, and to support “transformative research for transit systems,” which is a 12 percent increase above FY 2021.