FRA Continues To Make Progress Implementing PRIIA Responsibilities but Faces Challenges With Rail Planning
The Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) gives the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) important new responsibilities, including integrated rail planning for the entire country. PRIIA also requires OIG to conduct two assessments of FRA’s progress in implementing the Act’s provisions. This report presents the results of our second assessment (the results of our first assessment were reported on March 6, 2012).
Since our first report, FRA continued to make progress, but 12 of its 29 PRIIA responsibilities remain incomplete. The Agency made progress on 10 of these 12, including ensuring that Amtrak’s stations comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, and initiating research studies on bio-fuels and the use of bio-based technology for locomotives. However, FRA has not initiated work on two responsibilities—conducting high-speed rail corridor studies for Congress, and establishing a process for the designation and extension of high-speed rail corridors.
Development of a national rail plan is a major challenge to FRA’s complete implementation of its responsibilities. While it undertook several rail planning activities, FRA did not articulate how its approach will fully address PRIIA’s requirement to develop a national rail plan. Rather than creating a single, national rail plan as PRIIA calls for, FRA has chosen a decentralized strategy that focuses on State and regional planning. FRA’s efforts to date have focused on plans for the Northeast Corridor and three states in the southwest—California, Nevada, and Arizona. The Agency has not yet established plans and milestones for other regions, or determined how it will link regional plans into a unified national rail plan. FRA concurred with our recommendation to update its PRIIA Action Plan and include an explanation of how its strategy will fulfill PRIIA’s requirement for a national rail plan. The Agency proposed an appropriate action plan.