Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Transportation’

$16M Grant to be Used to Rebuild NS Tracks

June 7, 2018

An Ohio project has received a $16.24 million federal grant that will be used to rebuild 30 miles of Norfolk Southern track along the Ohio River in Jefferson and Belmont counties in Ohio.

The money is being provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation as part of its Nationally Significant Freight and Highway Projects program, which is awarding $1.5 billion in grants.

The project will also include capacity improvements at two rail yards along the line.

In a news release, DOT said the project addresses the economic vitality criterion through improving track condition, increasing rail capacity and enhancing operations within the project corridor to generate economic, mobility and safety benefits.

NS will provide a 40 percent matching grant for the project and maintain the tracks after the project is completed.


TIGER Giving Way to BUILD

April 24, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation is replacing the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program with another program to be known as BUILD (Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development).

A DOT notice published last week said BUILD funding will be evaluated on safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, state of good repair, innovation, partnership and additional non-federal revenue for future transportation infrastructure investments factors.

The agency said it plans to award at least 30 percent of BUILD grants to projects located in rural areas.

BUILD grants can be used for road, bridge, transit, rail, port or intermodal projects. Projects must demonstrate that they will have a “significant local or regional impact.”

The DOT notice said the agency has $1.5 billion in discretionary grants to award through Sept. 30, 2020, through BUILD.

The initial round of BUILD grants will be limited to a maximum award of $25 million with no more than $150 million being awarded to a single state.

The TIGER program was introduced in 2009.

FRA Head Urges Caution at Crossings

April 19, 2018

The answer to grade crossing safety is pretty easy, the head of the Federal Railroad Administration believes

Ronald Batory

In a newspaper column, Ronald Batory urged motorists and pedestrians to “make safe choices.”

That means watching and listening for signals and not driving around lowered crossing gates.

The column is part of a campaign by the FRA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise awareness of grade crossing safety.

The theme of the campaign is “Stop! Trains Can’t.” The campaign got a lot of visibility during radio broadcasts of the recent NCAA Division I men’s basketball tournament.

The campaign is using radio, social media and digital advertising to target areas at higher risk for crossing accidents. A special focus is being provided in states where the most dangerous crossings are located.

Batory wrote in his column that train-vehicle collisions are avoidable, but it’s up to motorists to stop because trains cannot stop quickly.

In the meantime, the U.S. Department of Transportation is working with technology companies to add rail-crossing alerts to mobile applications.

Testing is underway of a system to provide warnings to trains when a vehicle is on the tracks.

DOT is also working with Operation Lifesaver on other rail safety education initiatives to encourage drivers to make safe choices at crossings.

GAO Wants Changes to FTA Safety Oversight

April 11, 2018

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report has found strengths and limitations in Federal Transit and Federal Railroad Administration rail safety oversight programs, but was particularly critical of the FTA.

The GAO noted that the FTA has not provided states with the guidance needed to ensure that they develop appropriate and effective transit-rail safety inspection programs of their own.

“In particular, FTA has not provided states with guidance on how to develop and implement risk-based inspection programs,” GAO officials wrote in the report. “Though FTA has said that it will develop such guidance, it does not have a plan or timeline to do so.”

The report said that the FTA has failed to develop a process or methodology to evaluate whether state safety agency enforcement authorities and practices are effective and that without clear evidence that state safety agencies’ enforcement is effective, states and the FTA may not be able to compel passenger-rail operators to fix safety issues.

GAO recommended the FTA create a plan and timeline for developing risk-based inspection guidance for state safety agencies.

It also recommended the FTA develop and communicate a method for how it will monitor whether state safety agencies’ enforcement practices are effective.

As for the FRA, the GOA suggested that it continue to use and update a risk-based model to guide inspections.

The U.S. Department of Transportation, which oversees the FTA and FRA, agreed with the recommendations.

FY2018 Budget Bill Boosts Amtrak Funding

March 26, 2018

A federal budget bill approved by Congress last week contained an increase in funding for Amtrak, although that funding boost is expected to be used to help pay for the Gateway project in New York-New Jersey.

However, Amtrak’s long-distance trains would also receive an upward bump in funding.

News reports indicate that Amtrak will receive a minimum of $388 for the Gateway project, which involves replacement of tunnels leading into New York City beneath the Hudson River.

The $1.3 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 allocates more money for passenger rail projects than Congress has approved since the 2008 economic stimulus spending programs ended.

The budget directs $650 million to the Northeast Corridor while Amtrak’s national network will receive $1.292 billion. Those are both increases from 2017 funding of $328 million for the NEC in 2017 and $1.1 billion for the national network. Amtrak’s total appropriation will be $1.942 billion, up from $1.428 billion.

Other transportation programs also fared well in the budget bill.

The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program was given a $1 billion boost over 2017 levels to $1.5 billion available. At least 30 percent of these grants will go to rural communities.

Federal investments in rail infrastructure and safety programs was funded at $3.1 billion.

Also included is funding for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants at $250 million to address critical rail investments nationwide and on the NEC.

Rail safety and research programs received $287 million to fund inspectors and training, plus maintenance and safety investments to the physical rail infrastructure.

Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants were given $593 million to fund capital and safety improvements, planning, environmental work and research. There is also $250 million included for grants available to rail operators for the installation of positive train control.

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program received a $25 million allocation for the first time and $350,000 has been set aside to help short line and regional railroads participate in the program.

The Federal Transit Administration received $13.5 billion, which includes $9.7 billion “to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems.”

Within the $9.7 billion is $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants transit projects. “New Starts” projects are funded at $1.5 billion, Core Capacity projects at $716 million and Small Starts projects at $400 million.

The Trump administration and President Donald Trump in particular have opposed federal funding of the Gateway project, saying that the states of New York and New Jersey needed to spend more of their own money for most of the project.

The project involves building a new Tunnel under the Hudson River and replacing the century-old Portal Bridge on the NEC.

There has been speculation that Trump opposed the Gateway project as retribution to New York and New Jersey Congressmen and Senators who opposed a tax cut bill that he favored and which Congress passed last December.

At one point Trump had threatened to veto any bill containing federal funding for Gateway.

The 2018 budget will circumvent the Trump administration’s opposition to federal funding of the Gateway project.

Amtrak is likely to contribute a minimum of $388 million to Gateway though its Northeast Corridor Account, while New York and New Jersey will receive $153 million from the Federal Transit Administration’s High-Density States and State of Good Repair grant programs.

Gateway is projected to receive 60 percent of the original federal dollars intended for it.

The budget bill ensured that the U.S. Department of Transportation will have limited ability to withhold the $650 million earmarked for the Northeast Corridor Account, which also funds projects throughout the region.

APTA Head Says Some Commuter Railroads Won’t Make the PTC Deadline Later This Year

March 21, 2018

The president of the American Public Transportation Association said this week that some commuter railroads are going have a difficult time meeting a federally-mandated Dec. 31 deadline to install positive train control.

“[Transit] agencies are working at their best to advance and meet this deadline,” said Paul Skoutelas. “It is clear that some are going to struggle with it. I think we’re going to see a good number meet the deadline, others that are going to be behind.”

Skoutelas spoke at a news conference during APTA’s 2018 legislative conference, which was attended by more than 500 transit officials.

He said Congress and the public need to understand the complexity involved with making PTC work, which includes working with what work host freight railroads have completed and assuring interoperability with freight lines and Amtrak.

“All of these agencies have had to rearrange their capital budgets to free up money for positive train control,” Skoutelas said adding that money being spent on PTC could have been used for such things as bridge replacement and track rehabilitation.

“It’s a lot to do in a short period of time,” said David Genova, general manager of Denver’s Regional Transit District. “There aren’t very many designers and manufacturers of these systems. The capacity to get all of this work done in a short period of time is incredibly challenging.”

Federal Railroad Administration data showed that as of last Sept. 30 PTC  preparedness among commuter systems ranged from nearly 100 percent to zero.

This week the Department of Transportation said that a more recent report shows that commuter railroads have progressed little in the past three months.

Chao Prods Railroads to Finish PTC Work

January 4, 2018

The U.S. Department of Transportation is leaning on railroads to finish installation and implementation of positive train control by the end of the year.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao wrote to the chiefs of Class Is, intercity passenger railroads and state and local transit agencies to prod them into meeting the Dec. 31, 2018, deadline set by federal law.

Chao expressed concern that many railroads are behind schedule in implementing PTC.

She said the Federal Railroad Administration will work with railroads “to help create an increased level of urgency to underscore the imperative of meeting existing timeline expectations for rolling out this critical rail safety technology.”

In 2008 Congress adopted legislation requiring PTC with a deadline of Dec. 31, 2015. That deadline later was moved to the end of 2018 although in certain circumstances the deadline could be the end of 2020.

Burns Harbor Port Gets FASTLANE Grant

November 2, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded the Port of Indiana-Burns Harbor a $9.85 million FASTLANE grant that will be used to fund port expansion.

The grant is part of the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) program, now known as the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America program.

The Port said the money will be used to fund a $19.7 million expansion aimed at increasing the port’s cargo handling capacity and multimodal capabilities.

The expansion will include the construction of a 2.3-acre cargo terminal with multimodal connections for handling cargo transfers between ships, barges, rail cars and trucks.

In addition, 4.4 miles will be added to the port’s existing 14-mile rail network. Two new yards will create storage for 165 rail cars, accommodate a 90-car unit train and provide rail-car switching within the port.

CSX VP to Head DOT Hazmat Unit

September 12, 2017

A CSX executive will be named by President Donald J. Trump to become Administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Howard R. “Skip” Elliott has served for the past decade as CSX group vice president of public safety, health, environment and security.

His duties have included hazardous materials transportation safety, homeland security, railroad policing, crisis management, environmental compliance and operations, occupational health management and continuity of business operations.

Elliott is a receipient of the Association of American Railroads Holden-Proefrock Award for lifetime achievement in hazardous materials transportation safety.

A 40-year railroad industry veteran, Elliott is a graduate of Columbia Southern University and Indiana University, where he received the first ever Distinguished Alumni Award from the Department of Criminal Justice, and is a current member of the IU College of Arts and Sciences Executive Dean’s Advisory Committee.

PHMSA, which is housed within the Federal Railroad Administration, holds regulatory responsibility for hazmat transported in railroad tank cars. Among its most recent actions was overseeing development of the DOT-117A tank car for crude oil and ethanol transportation, and regulations governing phasing-out of older, “legacy” DOT-111 tank cars.

DOT Taking TIGER Grant Applications

September 8, 2017

The U.S. Department of Transportation is taking applications for its TIGER grant program.

The program has $500 million set aside that will be awarded on a competitive basis for projects that have a significant impact on the United States, a metropolitan area or a region.

Federal legislation recently approved by Congress mandates that TIGER grants must be between $5 million and $25 million with the minimum for rural areas set at $1 million.

The selection criteria remain about the same as in previous years, DOT officials said.

However, the 2017 TIGER program will afford special consideration to projects that emphasize improved access to transportation for rural communities.

TIGER applications are due Oct. 16. DOT will hold webinars on Sept. 13 and Sept. 19 to provide technical assistance for grant applicants.

Since the TIGER program was established in 2009, DOT has awarded $5.1 billion for capital investments in surface transportation programs.

Earlier this year, the Trump administration proposed ending the TIGER program in the fiscal year 2018 budget.