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AASHTO Journal

FRA Delays Deadline for Passenger Rail Safety Programs as DOTs Seek Changes

As state departments of transportation and other groups continue to press regulators for changes, the Federal Railroad Administration said it has delayed for a full year a rule that would require passenger railroads to submit system safety programs.

The agency's latest stay of the rule – after four earlier delays – headed off a deadline of Dec. 4 for its requirements to take effect. The new deadline is Dec. 4, 2018.

Various state DOTs have been pressing for the FRA to clarify that its rule would not apply to states or other political agencies that own railroads or financially support them, but would instead be limited to the actual operators of intercity and commuter rail lines.

Those formally petitioning for such changes or supporting them include the Vermont Agency of Transportation and the DOTs from North Carolina, Indiana and Massachusetts. They also asked the FRA to stay its rule while the agency considers the change requests.

The FRA said in a Nov. 30 Federal Register notice that it was again delaying the requirement "given the multiple requests for a continued stay of the rule" and the "FRA's interest in addressing the issues raised in the state petitions prior to requiring full compliance."

It noted that the FRA officials on Oct. 30 met with various stakeholders to get their input and "discuss potential paths forward to respond to the petitions" before taking final action.

Those attending, the FRA said, included representatives from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, American Public Transportation Association, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, Association of American Railroads, Amtrak, plus union and freight shipping groups.

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