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FRA Issues Final State Rail Plan Guidance

Section 303 of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) requires states that wish to receive federal funding for high speed and intercity rail projects to prepare state rail plans. On September 18, 2013, the Federal Railroad Administration issued its Final State Rail Plan Guidance (Final Guidance) establishing the procedural, substantive, and formatting requirements for states to use in preparing the required state rail plans. The Final Guidance is effective as of its date of issuance, September 18, 2013.

The purpose of a state rail plan is to set forth a state’s comprehensive policy involving freight and passenger rail transportation and to present priorities and strategies to enhance rail service for the public benefit. PRIAA requires each state to prepare a state rail plan in order to be eligible for funding for high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects as well as to receive grants to relieve rail congestion. In the Final Guidance, FRA has re-emphasized the importance of integrating the development of state rail plans with other state planning efforts as much as possible. In particular, FRA requires coordination with transportation planning processes conducted by states and Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) that are required by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The Final Guidance also encourages states to coordinate their state rail plans with state freight plans that are provided for under the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21).

The Final Guidance encourages states to conform any state rail plans currently under development to the Final Guidance. Each state is required to designate or establish a State Rail Transportation Authority to prepare and administer the state rail plan, and a State Rail Plan Approval Authority to review and approve the state rail plan. The same entity is permitted to serve both functions.