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12/17/2003



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

FRA releases Volpe Center's RRIF recommendations


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On Dec. 15, the Federal Railroad Administration released a consultant's report offering recommendations on how the administration can improve the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program, including ways to hasten the application and approval process, according to American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association's bi-monthly newsletter.

Issued by the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center — which FRA hired in February to study the program — the report suggests the administration institute a pre-application process, such as a meeting, teleconference or inquiry letter, to preliminarily determine an applicant's eligibility. The center also recommends FRA create a formal application with attachments (applicants now complete a checklist), develop a formal application evaluation and approval process, and institute a tracking system to monitor applicants' status.

Launched in 2001 as part of the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), RRIF authorizes FRA to provide $3.5 billion in direct loans or loan guarantees to eligible railroads (including $1 billion set aside for regionals and short lines), state and local governments, and government-sponsored authorities to acquire, develop, improve or rehabilitate existing or new intermodal or rail facilities.

But during the past two years, FRA has approved RRIF loans for only five regionals and short lines. The administration expects RRIF to be included in TEA-21 reauthorization legislation.


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