Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

Grant to Improve Amtrak’s Michigan Line

August 22, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration announced last week that it has awarded more than $233 million in grants for infrastructure improvements to Amtrak routes.

The funding came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.

Most of the projects are located along the Northeast Corridor, but funding also will pay for projects in Michigan and California.

In Michigan up to $1.6 million was awarded for reconstruction of five deficient bridges on the state-owned rail line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn used by Amtrak’s Wolverine Service and Blue Water trains. The work will improve reliability, increase load ratings, and avoid future bridge closures.

FRA Seeks Comments on Rail Compacts Program

August 21, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration last week issued a Request of Information on the new Interstate Rail Compacts Grant Program that it will administer.

The program was established by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act to provide funding to states for intercity rail passenger service.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the FRA said its role in the program is to pay for “the technical and administrative functions of IRCs and support coordination and promotion activities for rail services within a region.”

The FRA said interstate rail compacts have traditionally promoted development of intercity passenger rail projects and fostered the efficient development of those projects sponsored by state departments of transportation.

“Furthermore, as investment in intercity passenger rail from state and federal governments over the past decade has created increasingly robust rail networks, a greater need has emerged for increased cooperation across state lines to coordinate intercity passenger rail services and project delivery,” the FRA notice said.

Certain regions have also expressed a desire for strong leadership to represent regional needs. The FRA notice said it is seeking public comment on how the Interstate Rail Compacts Grant Program can best support existing compacts “so they are able to take a more central role in advancing the development of intercity passenger rail service.”

By law only established compacts are eligible for financial assistance under the program, but the FRA said it is considering whether offering other types of assistance outside of the program, such as technical support, to states interested in developing compacts would be beneficial.

Comments are due by Sept. 19.

FRA Proposes 2-Person Crew Rule

July 28, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration has proposed requiring that trains have a least two crew members aboard.

The  proposed rule, which is to be published today in the Federal Register, would require at least two crew members for all railroad operations, with exceptions for operations that do not pose significant safety risks to railroad workers, the public or environment.

In a news release, the FRA said the rule would bring uniformity to the industry by replacing a patchwork of state laws regulating train crew size.

The FRA proposal includes requirements for the location of crew members on a moving train, and would ban the operation of some trains with fewer than two crew members from transporting large amounts of certain hazardous materials. 

FRA officials said the rule contains an assessment and annual oversight requirement to ensure that railroads fully consider and address all relevant safety factors associated with using less-than-two-person crews.

The proposed rule was rebuked by the Association of American Railroads as “misguided.”

In a statement the AAR said the FRA considered and rejected a similar two-person crew rule in 2019 after finding the absence  of a safety justification for it.

Grade Crossing Elimination Program Launched

July 1, 2022

Federal transportation officials are making more than $573 million in grant funds available as part of a new Railroad Crossing Elimination Program.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has issued a notice of funding opportunity for funding that is available in federal fiscal year 2022.

The program was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act approved last fall.

That law provides $3 billion over five years to the grade crossing program to fund grade separation projects, such as overpasses and underpasses; closures; track relocations; and improvements to or installations of warning devices at crossings, if they are related to a separation or relocation project.

USDOT said grant applications will be reviewed by the Federal Railroad Administration “based on their potential to improve safety by eliminating crossings or improving existing highway-rail grade crossings; to increase access to emergency services; to reduce emissions; to provide economic benefit; and to hire locally, among other possible community enhancements,”

Ohio Police Agency Gets FRA Safety Grant

June 15, 2022

A project in Middletown, Ohio, is among those that will share in grant funding from the Federal Railroad Administration to promote railroad safety.

The Middletown Police Department will receive $120,000 to seek to reduce trespassing at high trespass hot spots, including several locations of homeless encampments along railroad right of ways that contribute to the trespassing risk.

A team of two officers will patrol hot spot areas through four-hour patrols working in cooperation with the CSX Police Department.

The FRA said this week it will award nearly $2 million in Railroad Trespassing Enforcement Grants and $207,000 in Railroad Trespassing Suicide grants.

The funding will be used for what the FRA described in a news release as law enforcement trespass prevention activities and educational outreach campaigns aimed at reducing railroad-related suicides on rail rights-of-way.

The grants are one component of a larger FRA program called National Strategy to Reduce Trespassing and are being awarded to programs located in areas with a high occurrence of railroad trespassing incidents.

The FRA said 25 projects in 13 states are receiving funding. Some grants also were awarded to programs in Michigan and Pennsylvania.

This includes $114,348 awarded to the Dearborn, Michigan, police department, which plans to deploy over the next year a team of two officers on four-hour blocks of overtime three times per week.

The department said in its grant application that it has responded to more than 1,700 railroad-related incidents since 2016.

In Pennsylvania, the Lower Makefield Township Police Department will receive $40,000 to provide 12 hours of police patrol activities each week for a year. The officers will monitor rail lines and the adjacent property in designated hot spots.

The LMTPD has responded to five rail-related suicides in the past five years involving trains of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and CSX.

FRA Finalizes Fatigue Program Rule

June 14, 2022

Freight and passenger railroads will be required to implement a fatigue and risk management program under a new rule issued by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The rule was published Monday in the Federal Register and affects Class 1 railroads as well as Amtrak and commuter railroads.

Those carriers are being directed to develop and implement the fatigue program as part of their larger system safety and risk reduction programs, FRA officials said in a statement.

Each railroad must consult with affected employees to identify fatigue hazards, as well as specific actions to be taken to mitigate or eliminate those risks.

The fatigue management program is mandated by the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008.

That law requires railroads to conduct an annual review of their fatigue management programs and directs the FRA to conduct periodic audits.

The FRA rule can be viewed at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2022/06/13/2022-12614/fatigue-risk-management-programs-for-certain-passenger-and-freight-railroads

2 Ohio Rail Projects Awarded CRISI Grants

June 8, 2022

Two Ohio railroad projects have been awarded Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants.

The grants are being awarded by the Federal Railroad Administration, which said 46 projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia will share $368 million in CRISI grants.

In a news release, the FRA said the projects are designed to improve and expand passenger-rail service and fund conventional and high-speed rail lines, as well as increase supply-chain resilience and fluidity, support short lines, invest in new technology and safety advancements and benefit rail industry workforce development and training activities.

In Ohio, the Wheeling & Lake Erie Spencer Connection Project will receive up to $6,868,768 to be used to construct a new connecting track and extension of yard tracks in Spencer.

The project goal is to eliminate switching movements and allow trains to directly access the yard from the Brewster and Akron subdivisions.

Work will include construction of a third connecting track between the two subdivisions and construction of eastward extensions of the existing transfer and pass tracks.

This work will include new turnouts and track relocations, as well as new ballast and drainage improvements. The revised layout will eliminate a number of reversing movements for trains and expand overall capacity.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission and W&LE will provide a 30 percent match.

In Cincinnati, the River Road Highway/Rail Grade Crossing Safety Improvements will receive up to $6,067,200.

The project will make safety improvements to four crossings on CSX and Central Railroad of Indiana including new signal equipment. The City of Cincinnati will provide a 20 percent match.

Two CRISI grants went to rail projects in Michigan.

The Great Lakes Corridor Improvement will receive up to $21.3 million, to rehabilitate track and rail assets of the Great Lakes Central.

Work will involve rebuilding track just north of Ann Arbor, including installing 4.25 miles of new rail, eliminating joints on an additional 41.25 miles, replacing or rehabilitating 11 bridges and culverts, and installing approximately 30,000 ties on mainline and siding track.

The project will eliminate 16 slow orders covering 45 miles of the 260-mile mainline corridor and will result in fewer track defects, derailments, and other maintenance problems associated with rail joints.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and GLC will provide a 50 percent match.

A grant of up to $8,697,910 will be used by the West Michigan Railroad for track rebuilding.

The project involves 10 miles of track in Southwest Michigan. Specific improvements include rail and cross-tie replacements, reconstructed roadbeds, bridge and turnout repairs, upgrades and replacement of two at-grade crossings, and rebuilding approximately 5.6 miles of track.

The work will upgrade portions of the line from 5 mph excepted track to at least FRA Class 2 speeds up to 25 mph and ensure the line can continue to handle 286,000-pound rail cars.

MDOT and WMR will provide a 35 percent match.

In Indiana, the Connecting the Crossroads of America project will receive up to $8,383,761 for track improvements to the Chicago, Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad main line and Decatur Subdivision.

The project will replace ballast and ties along a 54-mile segment of the main line and install 115-pound rail, ties, ballast, and surfacing on a 14-mile segment of the Decatur Subdivision. Additionally, 43 at-grade crossing surfaces are to be replaced with rubber seal/asphalt design for handling heavier loads, longevity of construction, and improved efficiency of travel at crossings.

When finished, the work will enable trains to operate at higher speeds. The Indiana Department of Transportation and CF&E will provide a 51 percent match.

Also in Indiana, the Elkhart & Western will receive up to $2,618,173 to be used to relocate an interchange track with Norfolk Southern, upgrade the 9-mile Elkhart Branch line to Class 1 track safety standards, expand rail siding capacity, and replace three grade crossing surfaces within Elkhart.

This interchange will be relocated out of the city center and into an industrial area. Currently, E&W and NS track intersect two roadways, and when a train is more than nine rail cars long, it blocks the roadway for approximately 15 minutes while trains interchange cars.

The proposed track relocation would eliminate the blocked crossing and improve grade crossings with deteriorating conditions.

The project will receive a 50 percent match from the E&W, INDOT, the City of Elkhart, and the St. Joseph County Redevelopment Commission.

 In West Virginia, the Appalachian & Ohio Railroad will receive up to $1,617,824 to improve its 42-mile railroad corridor from Grafton to Buckhannon.

The project will replace an antiquated traffic control system and install a new and modern broken rail detection system on the entire signaled section of the A&O rail line. The existing traffic control system has reached the end of its useful service life. The A&O will provide a 39 percent match.

No Amtrak Long Distance Train Met FRA OT Threshold During the First Quarter of 2022

May 19, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration reported that during the first quarter of 2022 no Amtrak long-distance train met the 80 percent on-time performance mark.

The FRA report said just 16 of Amtrak’s 43 routes met the 80 percent threshold.

The agency measures on-time performance, train delays, customer service, financial performance and public benefits.

The best Amtrak route for on-time performance was the Chicago-Milwaukee Hiawatha Service, which posted a rate of 95 percent. The worst was the Auto Train at 24.2 percent.

Other high performers included the Ethan Allen (93.3 percent) and Keystone Service (93.2) percent). Other low performers included the Capitol Limited (35.0 percent), and Sunset Limited (40.0 percent).

Eight long-distance trains rated at less than 50 percent with the best performance being turned in by the City of New Orleans at 79.9 percent, just below the FRA’s 80 percent threshold.

The FRA defines on time as no later than 15 minutes after the scheduled arrival time.

The first quarter report found Amtrak trains experienced 1.3 million minutes of delay during the quarter.

Freight train interference was the most common source of delay during the quarter, accounting for 299,252 minutes (22 percent) of total delay minutes. That was a 12 percent increase over the fourth quarter of 2021.

Freight train interference on Union Pacific was 84,000 minutes followed by Norfolk Southern (69,116 minutes), BNSF (69,079 minutes), and CSX (54,810 minutes).

Other significant causes of delay were unused recovery time, passenger train interference and slow orders.

The FRA report said passengers rated the majority of routes (31 of 41) as 80 percent or higher in overall satisfaction.

The only route falling below 70 percent passenger satisfaction was the Auto Train.

System-wide, Amtrak earned $672 million in adjusted operating revenue and incurred $823 million in fully allocated operating expenses, achieving a cost recovery ratio of 82 percent, the FRA report said.

Routes that operated with high cost-recovery ratios include the Auto Train (131 percent), Illini/Saluki (124 percent), Northeast Regional (115 percent), and Hiawatha (114 percent).

Ridership was up 7 percent to 5.5 million in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter or 2021.

The highest ridership was reported by Northeast Regional (1,706,419 riders), Acela Express (478,441 riders), and Pacific Surfliner (349,304 riders).

The FRA report said during federal fiscal year 2021, which ended on Sept. 30, 12.4 percent of Amtrak trips included a connection to another route: 6.4 percent of Northeast Corridor trains, 16.6 percent of State-supported trains, and 17.7 percent of long distance trains.

Of all multi-segment Amtrak trips, 2 percent included a missed connection, with the highest number on the San Joaquins, Pacific Surfliner, and Southwest Chief routes.

In FY2021, Amtrak served 67,835 riders (0.56 percent of all riders) in areas not well-served by other modes of intercity transportation, “such as air or intercity buses.

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 Needs to Improve Track Inspection, DOT OIG Concludes in Investigation

May 3, 2022

The Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Transportation has called on the Federal Railroad Administration to improve its track inspection program.

The OIG found during an audit that the FRA’s Automated Track Inspection Program is outdated.

ATIP is used by the agency in conjunction with track inspectors to determine whether railroads are complying with minimum safety requirements.

More than half of the 539 reports the OIG reviewed contained inaccurate data, OIG officials said.

The report concluded that the FRA failed to reached its goal of running ATIP vehicles 150 survey days a year.

Although some of those vehicles nearly came close to that goal, the fleet overall did not operate 80 percent or more of the time during fiscal years between 2016 and 2021 that agency officials had planned.

FRA officials said weather and other factors prevented it from reaching the 80 percent use goal.

The OIG report attributed inaccurate data in FRA reports to, in part, insufficient guidance on recording ATIP-related inspection activities.

The FRA relies on inspectors to respond promptly to changing conditions and use their territory knowledge in planning their work, but does not have any national or formal district-level track inspection planning processes in place.

“Until FRA improves ATIP utilization goals and ATIP-related track inspection reporting, it cannot ensure its resources are optimally targeted to support the agency’s track oversight,” the OIG report concluded.