Monday, August 27, 2012

FRA releases guidance for developing state rail plans, proposes revised RWP regs

The Federal Railroad Administration's Draft State Rail Plan Guidance, which was announced in the Federal Register on Tuesday, August 14, 2012, provides an explanation of the proposed process to be followed in developing state rail plans.

State rail plans provide a basis for federal and state rail investment by describing how rail fits into a state's overall transportation planning and presenting a series of goals, objectives and strategies for its rail system. The guidance includes FRA's review and acceptance procedures, the standardized state rail plan format, a list of the minimum state rail plan content requirements and requirements established by the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA).

States that completed state rail plans before the date of enactment of PRIIA, October 16, 2008, that substantially meet the requirements of PRIIA as determined by FRA, will be deemed accepted and eligible for capital grants under Sections 301, 302 and 501of PRIIA. Further, for state rail plans that were completed after the enactment of PRIIA and prior to this issued guidance, FRA will treat them as if they were completed prior to the enactment of PRIIA.

Because state rail plans must be updated at least every five years, they will be reviewed and accepted by FRA on a rolling basis. Further, state rail plans that are the product of planning efforts underway prior to issuance of the finalized version of this proposed guidance and that substantially meet the requirements of PRIIA, will be deemed by FRA to meet program and project eligibility requirements for grants.

In other news, the FRA released a notice of proposed rulemaking that would boost protections for railroad employees and contractors. The rulemaking would revise FRA's Roadway Worker Protection regulations to further advance the on-track safety of railroad employees and contractors engaged in maintenance-of-way activities and clarify existing regulations. FRA will also review existing technical bulletins and a safety advisory dealing with on-track safety to consider implications and consider enhancements to the existing regulations.

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