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Supporting State Planning for a Higher-Performing Rail System

Supporting State Planning for a Higher-Performing Rail System

On Tuesday, FRA issued Final State Rail Plan Guidance to assist States in their ongoing effort to plan for and invest in a higher-performing rail network.

The guidance will help States better identify their transportation challenges and understand the role that rail – freight and passenger – can play in ensuring the safe, reliable and efficient movement of people and goods. 

State rail plans are the blueprint, and the forerunner of all projects to come.  Any time states apply for federal funding, planning must be complete in order to compete effectively for these funds. A rail plan puts states in a much better position to have projects ready for funding when and if funding becomes available. The guidance FRA issued Tuesday will help them develop market-based solutions and increase their readiness. 

Photo of Amtrak Cities Sprinter locomotive

Already, states have a growing pipeline of rail projects that – if funded – would develop or improve 9,000 miles of rail corridors in 33 states. A state rail plan would allow that pipeline to expand even further.

And that means more opportunities to build on the progress the Obama Administration has made over the last four and a half years--6,000 miles of improved rail, 40 new or modernized rail stations, and 260 new railcars and 105 locomotives.

Photo of rail workers

Across the nation, state, regional, and local transportation planners understand that investing in rail will deliver economic growth.  They also understand that rail –given the capacity constraints of our highways and runways– represents a mode of opportunity.

Rail needs to play a growing role in moving 100 million additional people and 4 billion more tons of freight annually in the next few decades. And State rail plans will help define this role, assisting our efforts to build a more integrated transportation system.

With the guidance we issued, the clock is now running for every state to have an FRA-compliant State Rail Plan in the next five years.  And while the clocks ticks, the need for rail –like other modes– to have dedicated and predictable federal funding becomes increasingly important.


Joseph Szabo is Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration.

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