Developing Multi-State Institutions to Implement Intercity Passenger Rail Programs

In many cases, planned intercity passenger rail service improvements--construction of new infrastructure, enhancement of existing infrastructure, and purchase of new rolling stock--will involve more than a single-state jurisdiction. Implementing these plans requires multi-state agreements on infrastructure funding and rail service operations to address highly complex issues affecting a multitude of jurisdictions and operating agencies. There currently is no adequately tested institutional framework on which to structure these agreements and implement programs along multi-state corridors. The majority of existing and proposed intercity travel markets suitable for rail transportation cross through multiple states. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is currently funding 25 corridor investment plans--16 of which are multi-state. In addition, 39 of the 50 U.S. city pairs identified by America 2050 (Hagler, Yoav, and Petra Todorovich. 2009, Where High-Speed Rail Works Best, New York) as having the greatest market potential for intercity rail are multi-state. Examples of corridors, current and proposed, involving more than one state, include the following: Northeast Corridor (Boston to Washington), Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (regional rail service in 10 states), Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor (Washington, D.C., to Charlotte and Atlanta), Atlanta Hub (Atlanta to Jacksonville, Birmingham, and Louisville), Southern High-Speed Rail Commission (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama), Tulsa to Oklahoma City to South Texas, Southwest Multi-State Regional Plan (California, Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado), XpressWest (Victorville, California, to Las Vegas, Nevada), and Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon). The challenges inherent in planning, designing, constructing, and operating multi-state passenger rail corridors are significant, and include those identified below: (1) Overuse and underfunding results in friction associated with allocating available capacity; (2) The geographic location of investments on a corridor may be concentrated disproportionately in one state, while the benefits of those investments may accrue to multiple states along the corridor; (3) Individual states have limited resources, capacity, and leverage to negotiate service agreements with infrastructure owners, most of whom have regional- or national-level market perspectives; (4) Rail corridors within multi-state regions need to function as a cohesive, integrated network, yet federal and state investments tend to be evaluated and prioritized on a state-by-state basis. Given that conflict, there is a need to consider more economically efficient sequencing of investments that first focus on corridors or segments that have the most significant benefits for the regional network as a whole; and (5) A "pass-through" state between major origin and destination cities with few or no intermediate stops may have limited incentive to plan for or invest in that corridor. In recognition of these challenges, some states have been cooperating in intercity passenger rail planning and development activities through simple memoranda of understanding or interstate compacts. Northeast Corridor (NEC) planning has generally been coordinated by Amtrak as the owner of a majority of the property and infrastructure, and states have cooperated in such planning through informal advisory groups. To strengthen that coordination, the Passenger Rail Improvement and Investment Act (PRIIA) of 2008 created a new intergovernmental group, the Northeast Corridor Infrastructure and Operations Advisory Commission, to undertake certain planning tasks. As part of the overall corridor passenger system, commuter rail services cross state lines for a number of operations and are generally authorized through a range of special purpose bi-state or multi-state agreements. Under these agreements, the neighboring state pays for capital and operating expenses for extending the commuter rail route, such as the Massachusetts-Rhode Island agreement extending Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) service into Rhode Island. In addition, privately owned Class I railroads have generally coordinated investments, funding sources, and project delivery along multi-state corridors with affected states. Given that the majority of corridors with the strongest market potential for rail cross state boundaries, creating institutional models responding to these challenges is critical to implementing improvements to intercity rail passenger networks. Solutions requiring multi-state cooperation and participation have not always been necessary with traditional transportation system investment strategies. Lack of an effective model has at times delayed or prevented implementing rail system investments to solve corridor-wide, multi-state demand. The objective of this research is to create practical models for multi-state institutions that can have responsibility for developing and providing intercity passenger rail networks and services. Issues addressed should include, but not be limited to, the following: (1) Existing and evolving legal, financial, and administrative requirements; (2) Competing federal, regional, state, and local responsibilities and interests; (3) Balancing potentially competing needs of intercity passenger, commuter, and freight rail in shared corridors; (4) Eligibility and flexibility to receive and invest public and private funds; (5) Evaluating and sharing costs, benefits, and risks among multi-state institution participants; (6) A framework for setting project priorities; (7) Overall management responsibility for corridor operations and services; facilitating project delivery; (8) Enabling seamless connections to other modes; and (9) Identifying and resolving jurisdictional overlaps among multi-state institutions and other affected entities. In the context of this research, "multi-state institutions" is used as a generic term to denote any type of institutional mechanism, whether existing or new, that enables two or more states working together to receive federal funds and deliver interstate passenger rail service.


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  • Status: Active
  • Funding: $400000.00
  • Contract Numbers:

    Project 07-02

  • Sponsor Organizations:

    Federal Railroad Administration

    1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
    Washington, DC  United States  20590

    National Cooperative Rail Research Program (NCRRP)

    Transportation Research Board
    500 Fifth Street, NW
    Washington, DC  United States  20001
  • Project Managers:

    Goldstein, Lawrence

  • Performing Organizations:

    Parsons Brinckerhoff, Incorporated

    New York, NY  United States 
  • Principal Investigators:

    Meyer, Michael

  • Start Date: 20130610
  • Expected Completion Date: 0
  • Actual Completion Date: 20150209
  • Source Data: RiP Project 37790

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01543881
  • Record Type: Research project
  • Source Agency: Transportation Research Board
  • Contract Numbers: Project 07-02
  • Files: TRB, RiP
  • Created Date: Nov 22 2014 1:03AM