Posts Tagged ‘Rail passenger planning’

AAO Sees Good News in New Transportation Bill

December 5, 2015

All Aboard Ohio says that the recently approved federal transportation bill could potentially affect rail programs in Ohio in a number of ways, including opening the door for expanded Amtrak service.

The rail passenger advocacy group said that the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act gives states and new financing tools for passenger rail and transit services.

AAO said that Amtrak service could be expanded modestly without the Ohio Department of Transportation having to take the lead on funding.

One section of the bill authorizes $20 million per year in operating funds to expand existing or resurrect previous passenger rail services.

AAO said that since 2000 federal budget cuts have reduced daily train miles in Ohio by 1,008, the second highest total in the nation behind Florida.

Two potential Amtrak service expansions that could be funded from that money, AAO said, include increasing the operating frequency of the Chicago-New York Cardinal from tri-weekly to daily and linking the Keystone and Wolverine Service lines via Pittsburgh, Youngstown, Cleveland, Toledo and Detroit.

Amtrak cannot on its own accord by law expand service if it requires more funding support.

But it can expand its network at the request of a member of Congress, a state department of transportation, or a consortium of regional/local governments.

AAO said federal funding for Ohio’s public transit agencies is expected to grow from $175 million in 2015 to $195 million per year by 2020.

That figure does not include grants that Ohio transit agencies, cities and metropolitan areas could land to fund new transit services and intermodal transportation centers.

The FAST Act also seeks to streamline federal funding reviews and open up rail infrastructure financing for train station-area real estate developments.

AAO said it is uncertain how this provision might affect rail project development affecting passenger services.

But the group noted that the section was pushed by Illinois lawmakers so that major improvements to Chicago Union Station could be eligible for Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing loans.

At present, AAO said, the RRIF program has $35 billion in lending authority that is not being used.

Those funds could potentially be used for station development and to shorten the application review times.

Ohio to be Part of Midwest Rail Planning Group

August 15, 2015

Ohio will take part in a multi-state planning initiative for the Midwest led by the Federal Railroad Administration .

Detrails of the planning work will be announced soon. Formation of the planning group is required by law before federal funding can be awarded to service expansions and capital improvements.

All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger advocacy group, said that the news comes as Congress is finishing work on a reauthorization of a six-year surface transportation law that includes passenger rail provisions.

The legislation includes 100 percent percent federal operating funding for new or expanded routes of 750 miles or more.

All of Ohio’s existing Amtrak routes fall into that category.

A more detailed, formal announcement of the grant award will soon be made by the FRA, which recently notified Congress about the multi-state planning.

The funding, totaling $2.78 million, is being used for FRA-led planning in the Midwest and Southeast.

For the Midwest, the FRA approved an application submitted in November 2014. This planning will be similar to that which was recently conducted for the Southwest.

The multi-state plan also will include Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Kentucky.

Planning will be federally led rather than awarded to states. Therefore, the FRA will conduct passenger rail planning in Ohio and other states.

For Ohio’s short-distance corridor planning, regional planning agencies will no longer need to take the lead on sponsoring planning. The local agencies will instead take on a more traditional role of supporting the FRA planning work, notifying stakeholders of developments and being conduits of stakeholder input.