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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

Federal Railroad Administration proposes seven more environmental procedure exclusions


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has proposed adding seven new categorical exclusions to its environmental procedures to help expedite project delivery nationwide. The agency has determined that the additional exclusions are needed to facilitate the administration of laws relating to railroad safety, development, rehabilitation and financial assistance programs, particularly the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail grant program and Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing loan program.

The exclusions are actions the FRA has determined won’t individually or cumulatively impact humans or the environment, and therefore don’t require the preparation of an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act.

The seven exclusions, which would be in addition to 20 existing categorical exclusions in the FRA’s environmental procedures, involve:
• alterations to existing facilities, locomotives, stations and rail cars to make them accessible to the elderly and people with disabilities;
• bridge rehabilitation, reconstruction or replacement work, and the construction of bridges, culverts and grade separations, predominantly within existing right of way, that don’t involve extensive in-water construction activities;
• acquisitions, rehabilitations or maintenance activities of vehicles and equipment that don’t cause a substantial increase in the use of infrastructure within an existing right of way or other previously disturbed locations;
• installations, repairs and replacements of equipment and small structures that take place predominantly within an existing right of way and don’t greatly change traffic density on an existing line or at a facility;
• environmental restoration, remediation and pollution-prevention activities in or near existing and former track, infrastructure, stations and facilities;
• assemblies and construction of facilities and stations that are consistent with existing land use and zoning requirements and don’t greatly change traffic density; and
• track and track structure maintenance and improvements, if carried out predominantly within an existing right of way, that don’t substantially increase rail traffic beyond existing or historic levels.

The proposed exclusions were developed in coordination with the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and are part of the Obama administration’s ongoing efforts to streamline government and allow job creators to break ground on shovel-ready projects months or years faster without damaging the environment, FRA officials said in a news brief posted on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s website.

The proposed categorical exclusions are available for public review on the FRA’s website via this link. Public comments will be accepted until July 13.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 6/19/2012