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1/6/2004



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

USDOT's restructuring plan proposes FRA/Office of Pipeline Safety merger



To improve research and development capabilities, U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) is proposing an internal restructuring plan under which the department would create an agency dedicated solely to promoting and developing transportation and safety research and technologies.

Under the restructuring, USDOT also would fold the Office of Pipeline Safety into the Federal Railroad Administration and rename the merged agency the Federal Railroad and Pipeline Administration (FRPA). Department officials consider the pipeline agency to be structurally and operationally similar to FRA.

USDOT plans to transform the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA) into the Research and Innovative Technology Administration (RITA), which would be responsible for research and development functions. RITA also would inherit the Intelligent Transportation Systems Joint Program Office — currently within the Federal Highway Administration — and all statistical and research functions performed by the Bureau of Transportation Statistics.

In addition, USDOT would move RSPA's Office of Hazardous Materials to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Transportation Policy to create a single, haz-mat standard setting agency for all modes.

The restructuring would have "negligible effects" on FRA's organizational functions, says FRA Public Affairs Specialist Warren Flatau.

"The proposal is budget neutral (i.e., there would be no job or funding losses)," he says. "If it occurs, the Office of Pipeline Safety would remain organizationally distinct from the Office of Safety."

Some reorganization aspects can be accomplished administratively, but some will require congressional/legislative action, says Flatau, adding that USDOT expects to submit authorizing and appropriations language to Congress at the beginning of the next session.

"[The plan] will also be reflected in the president's FY05 budget proposal," he says.

USDOT currently is creating a reorganization working group comprising representatives of each affected operating area and mode to finalize restructuring details.

Jeff Stagl


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