March 7, 2013,Federal Court Upholds Seattle East Link Light Rail Project
The U.S. District Court granted summary judgment for firm client, Sound Transit, in a challenge to the environmental review for the planned extension of the Seattle light rail system linking downtown and the eastern suburbs. Plaintiffs challenged the sufficiency of the EIS, including the examination of alternatives, cumulative impacts, and impacts on wetlands and park resources. The court rejected each of Plaintiffs’ claims. The firm assisted in preparing the EIS and in defending that document in court. For a copy of the court’s opinion, click here.
November 26, 2012,Federal Railroad Administration Extends Deadline for Comments on Proposed System Safety Program Rule
In a notice published in today’s Federal Register, available here, FRA announces that it has extended the deadline for submitting comments on the proposed rule regarding System Safety Programs that was published on September 7, 2012 at 77 Fed. Reg. 55372. The new deadline for filing comments in Docket No FRA-2011-0060 is December 7, 2012. FRA took this action due to the widespread disruptions that resulted from the impact of Hurricane Sandy on October 29 and 30, 2012.
September 7, 2012,Federal Railroad Administration Releases Proposed Rule on System Safety Programs for Passenger Railroads
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to establish requirements for commuter and intercity passenger rail system safety programs. The proposed regulation would require certain railroads, including passenger railroads, to develop and implement structured programs to identify, analyze and mitigate safety risks. The proposed rule also includes regulations addressing litigation protections for documents generated for the purpose of developing, implementing or evaluating a system safety program. Read a copy of the proposed rule here. Comments in Docket No. FRA-2011-0060 are due no later than November 6, 2012.
August 15, 2012,Federal Railroad Administration Issues Report to Congress Indicating Railroad Industry will not meet 2015 Deadline for Full Implementation of Positive Train Control Technology
Pursuant to its requirements under the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently issued a report to Congress assessing the progress of railroad carriers in implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) systems by the end of 2015. FRA concludes that “the majority of railroads will not be able to complete PTC implementation by the 2015 deadline.” The report cites significant technical and programmatic impediments, such as limited communications spectrum availability and a lack of industry-wide design specifications, budgeting and contracting limitations, and stakeholder capacity as the reasons for non-compliance. FRA notes, however, that partial deployment of PTC can likely be achieved within the stipulated timeframe, and that, should Congress decide to extend the implementation deadline, it should take into consideration the extent to which each railroad demonstrates due diligence in its efforts to comply with the deadline. FRA also recommends that it be authorized to provisionally certify installed PTC systems to allow for their use before final system certification is complete, and that it be allowed to approve use of alternative safety technologies on specified line segments in lieu of PTC, if appropriately and properly justified to FRA.
June 22, 2012,Federal Railroad Administration Publishes Notice of Intent to Prepare Environmental Study of Northeast Corridor Passenger Rail Improvements
The FRA published a notice in the Federal Register on June 22, 2012, announcing the preparation of a Tier 1 Environmental Impact Statement to evaluate potential passenger rail improvements between Washington, DC, and Boston. The project, billed NEC FUTURE, involves the coordination of the states along the corridor, the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission, Amtrak, and other local, state and federal stakeholders. FRA will schedule public meetings at nine locations on the corridor in August 2012 to solicit comments, and the public comment period on the notice of intent will close on September 14, 2012. See FRA’s Federal Register Notice here. Further information is also available at the project website: www.necfuture.com
June 18, 2012,Analysis of Urban Design and Economic Development Impacts of New York’s High Line and Atlanta’s BeltLine Projects
Atlanta-based urban and transportation blog the Saporta Report recently published a comparison of the High Line in New York City and BeltLine in Atlanta, both of which use abandoned rail corridors as catalysts for urban transformation. Firm attorneys Charles A. Spitulnik and Allison I. Fultz led the efforts to obtain the rail-related federal approvals necessary for both of these projects to move from concept to reality. Read the Saporta Report’s article here.
May 14, 2012,Federal Railroad Administration, Department of Transportation Publish Cost-Saving Revisions to Implementation of Positive Train Control Regulations
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Department of Transportation published a final rule revising the requirements for implementing Positive Train Control (PTC) systems on the country’s railroad network. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 (RSIA) mandates that PTC, a system of integrated safety-related railroad technologies, be installed across much of the country, including on lines where intercity passenger rail and commuter service is regularly operated or where poisonous by inhalation hazardous (PIH) materials are transported. Under the final rule, railroads will no longer be required to conduct risk analyses to obtain FRA approval for exemption from PTC requirements on track that will not serve passenger trains and will not be used to transport PIC materials as of December 31, 2015. Instead, railroads may utilize less costly safety measures on these lines, where appropriate. Prepared statements from US Transportation Secretary LaHood and FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo noted the significant cost savings to railroads expected as a result of the changes while also emphasizing that improvements to national railroad safety mandated by RSIA, including PTC, will continue to move forward. To learn more, view the FRA’s and DOT’s final rule.
April 20, 2012,USDOT Announces Request for Proposals for Made-in-America Passenger Rail Cars
On April 20, 2012, the United States Department of Transportation (“USDOT”) announced a Request for Proposals (“RFP”), valued at approximately $551 million, for the production of approximately 130 American-made, standardized bi-level passenger rail cars. The RFP requires that all components of the cars be built by American workers with American-produced steel, iron, and manufactured goods. The RFP is being issued as a result of a multi-state effort to jointly purchase standardized equipment for use on Amtrak’s intercity routes in California, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, and potentially Iowa. In preparation for this and other orders, DOT is partnering with the Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership to connect large car builders with domestic suppliers. USDOT will select the winning manufacturer in the Fall of 2012, with delivery of the cars expected in 2015. Funding for the RFP is being provided by the Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program. For more information, read USDOT’s press release.
March 12, 2012,Firm Client Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority Receives $900 Million in Federal Funding to Extend BART into Silicon Valley
On March 12, 2012, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) awarded $900 million in federal assistance to the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) to extend BART service south into Silicon Valley. The new line will extend 10 miles from the existing terminus at Fremont to Berryessa, and is scheduled to open in 2016. Kaplan, Kirsch & Rockwell assisted VTA in negotiating the acquisition of the necessary right-of-way and obtaining the formal abandonment of freight operations on the line. Read FTA’s press release here.
February 8, 2012,Federal Railroad Administration Amends and Clarifies Final Rule on Conductor Certification
On February 8, 2012, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a response to petitions for reconsideration of its final rule regarding conductor certification. The response addresses the concerns of several petitioners and amends portions of the final rule. Most significantly, the response extends all deadlines associated with implementing the final rule by six months, although the final rule’s effective date, January 1, 2012, remains in place. In addition, the response relaxes requirements regarding who may assist conductors whose territorial qualifications for a particular line have expired within one year. The response also clears up several areas of confusion, including potential conflicts with certain other regulatory requirements and the final rule’s definition of a “conductor,” without amending the final rule itself.