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Monday, October 19, 2009    Federal Oversight

FRA forges preliminary 'National Rail Plan'


On Friday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) released a preliminary National Rail Plan (NRP) aimed at formulating a strategy to address the nation’s rail needs. The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 directed the FRA to develop a NRP.

The preliminary plan directs the FRA to provide assistance to states in developing their rail plans to ensure that the federal long-range NRP is consistent with approved state rail plans. In addition, the plan sets the framework for the development of high-speed rail in the United States and the development of policies to improve the nation’s transportation system.

“Today, rail is part of a complex national system for the movement of people and goods. Passenger and freight transportation are closely interlinked in that people and goods use the same infrastructure for transportation by highway and rail,” FRA officials said in a preliminary NRP summary. “Therefore, a National Rail Plan must be developed with an awareness of the transportation needs and demands of both passengers and freight.”

The FRA plans to develop strategies that exploit the strengths inherent in each transportation mode, and leverage those strengths to improve U.S. transportation as a whole.

“Although this preliminary plan does not generally offer specific recommendations, it identifies a number of issues that this agency believes should be considered in formulating the NRP,” FRA officials said in the summary. “In short, it is designed to create a springboard for further discussion.”

The FRA is soliciting input from states, freight railroads and other transportation stakeholders to help develop a NRP. For more information on the plan, log onto www.fra.dot.gov and click on "Preliminary National Rail Plan" on the site's home page.

The Association of American Railroads (AAR) lauded the preliminary NRP, which recognizes that freight rail's investment in infrastructure maintenance and capacity enhancements meets national safety, reliability and capacity needs, said President and Chief Executive Officer Edward Hamberger.

"Railroads are eager to meet the freight and passenger transportation challenges of the 21st Century, and having a national rail plan will allow us to set policies that ensure success," he said.

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