FAST Act

Overview

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act, or FAST Act (P.L. 114-94), was the first long-term Federal transportation bill in more than 10 years.  The FAST Act authorized $305 billion over fiscal years 2016 through 2020 for the Department of Transportation’s rail, highway, motor vehicle safety, public transportation, motor carrier safety, hazardous materials safety, research, technology and statistics programs.  The FAST Act also marked the first time intercity passenger rail programs have been included in a comprehensive, multimodal surface transportation authorization bill, authorizing more than $10 billion for intercity passenger and freight rail grants. 

This website will provide information about the provisions of the FAST Act related to FRA.  For additional information regarding the FAST Act, including provisions that impact other agencies within the Department of Transportation (DOT or Department), please visit the Department’s FAST Act website

To review the text of the FAST Act Conference Report (H. Rept. 114-357):

Provisions by Topic

Safety

Passenger Rail Safety Requirements

The FAST Act requires all passenger railroads to install inward-facing cameras to better monitor train crews and assist in accident investigations, and outward-facing cameras to better monitor track conditions.

The FAST Act also requires passenger railroads to install alerters on older locomotives and develop speed limit action plans.  Additionally, in cooperation with the National Transportation Safety Board and Amtrak, FRA must conduct a post-accident assessment of the Amtrak Northeast Regional Trail #188 derailment on May 12, 2015 (Amtrak accident), and evaluate commuter rail track inspection requirements for high density lines.

Liability Cap

The FAST Act increases the passenger rail liability cap from $200 million to $295 million and applies the increase to the Amtrak accident.  The FAST Act also adjusts the cap for inflation every fifth year going forward.

Highway-Rail Grade Crossing Requirements

The FAST Act includes several provisions to improve the safety of highway-rail grade crossings.  For example, the FAST Act: 

  • Requires DOT to develop and distribute a model State highway-rail grade crossing safety action plan for States;

  • Requires States to submit (and update) State action plans;

  • Requires a study on data availability and engineering practices for private highway-rail grade crossings;

  • Requires a study on the effectiveness of PTC at highway-rail grade crossings; and

  • Requires the Comptroller General to evaluate on the use of locomotive horns at highway-rail grade crossings.

    Positive Train Control

    The FAST Act provides $199 million from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund for Fiscal Year 2017 to assist commuter railroads with positive train control (PTC) implementation.  At the request of an eligible application, the FAST Act allows these funds to be used either for grants or to pay the subsidy and administrative costs of loans under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program. 

    Safe Transportation of Energy Products (STEP)

    The FAST Act focuses on the safe transportation of energy products.  For example, the statute:

  • Requires new tank cars to be equipped with “insulating blankets;”

  • Mandates all legacy DOT-111 tank cars in flammable liquids service to be upgraded to new retrofit standards regardless of the product shipped;

  • Sets minimum requirements for the protection of certain top-fitting tank car valves;

  • Requires reporting on the industry-wide progress and capacity to modify DOT-111 tank cars;

  • Requires a derailment test and an independent evaluation to investigate braking technology requirements for the movement of trains carrying certain hazardous materials; and

  • Requires Class I railroads to generate accurate, real-time, and electronic train consist information (e.g., the location of hazardous materials on a train).  Railroads must provide that information to first responders on the scene of an accident and provide information about certain flammable liquid shipments to State Emergency Response Commissions.

Other Key Rail Safety Provisions

The FAST Act has several additional provisions to improve rail safety.  For example, the FAST Act: 

  • Requires DOT to provide a State or political subdivision of a State with a public version of a railroad’s bridge inspection report, upon request;

  • Requires redundant signal protection for maintenance-of-way workers;

  • Requires DOT to amend railroad police training provisions; and

  • Requires DOT to report to Congress on research conducted to develop a system to measure vertical track deflection from a moving rail car.

Amtrak

The FAST Act authorizes a total of $8.1 billion for Amtrak through 2020 under a new structure that includes $2.6 billion for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) that runs from Boston to Washington, D.C., and $5.45 billion for the National Network (which encompasses Amtrak’s State-Supported and Long-Distance routes, as well as other non-NEC activities).  Amtrak’s annual Federal funding was previously provided through an operating grant and a capital/debt grant.  This new account structure, when combined with new planning and reporting requirements focused on Amtrak’s business lines and asset categories, will significantly improve the transparency of Amtrak funding and the delivery of its services.

For more information on these financial and planning requirements in the FAST Act, visit Amtrak Financial and Planning Reforms.

 FAST Act Authorized Amtrak Funding FY16-FY20

The FAST Act contains several other Amtrak or NEC-related provisions, including:

  • State-Supported Route Committee:  Requires the Secretary to establish a committee composed of Amtrak, States, and the Department of Transportation, including FRA, to promote cooperation and planning related to Amtrak’s 29 State-Supported routes.  This provision formalizes efforts these stakeholders have actively pursued over the last several years and provides parity to the successful NEC Commission established in 2009.

  • Pilot Programs:  Requires Amtrak to initiate pilot programs to (1) offer local food/beverage products on state-supported trains and (2) allow passengers to transport cats and dogs.

  • Studies:  Requires a number of studies intended to improve Amtrak performance and NEC operations and capital project delivery, including station area development, leveraging Amtrak-owned right-of-way, enhancing Amtrak route and service planning methodologies, improving Amtrak boarding procedures, establishing through-ticketing between Amtrak and commuter rail services on the NEC, and the benefits of undertaking joint procurements for common materials used in Amtrak and commuter rail projects on the NEC.

 

Rail Development Grants and Policy

Grants

The FAST Act authorizes $2.2 billion over five years for three new competitive rail development grant programs that build off of the Administration’s previous $10 billion investment through the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program:

  • Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (Sec. 11301):  Purpose is to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of passenger and freight rail systems.  Eligible activities include a wide range of capital, regional and corridor planning, environmental analyses, research, workforce development, and training projects.

  • Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair (Sec. 11302):  Purpose is to reduce the state of good repair backlog on publically-owned or Amtrak-owned infrastructure, equipment, and facilities.  Eligible activities include capital projects to (1) replace existing assets in-kind or with assets that increase capacity or service levels, (2) ensure that service can be maintained while existing assets are brought into a state of good repair, (3) bring existing assets into a state of good repair.

  • Restoration and Enhancement Grants (Sec. 11303):  Purpose is to provide operating assistance to initiate, restore, or enhance intercity passenger rail transportation. Grants are limited to three years of operating assistance per route and may not be renewed.

Other Rail Development Policy Provisions

In addition to the three new competitive grant programs authorized, the FAST Act contains several other provisions intended to enhance the development and delivery of passenger and freight rail services, including:

  • Gulf Coast Rail Service Working Group:  Requires the Secretary to convene a working group to evaluate the restoration of intercity passenger rail service in the Gulf Region between New Orleans, LA and Orlando, FL.  Amtrak operated along this corridor prior to suspending service in August 2005 due to Hurricane Katrina, which caused extensive damage to the rail infrastructure over which the service operated.

  • Shared-Use Study:  Requires the Secretary to conduct a comprehensive study to evaluate the operational, institutional, and legal structures that would best support passenger and freight rail services operating over shared-use infrastructure.  Reassessing these parameters – many of which have been in place for decades – is necessary to ensuring the rail system is well-positioned to meet the passenger and freight mobility demands of our growing population.

FAST Act Authorized Grant Funding FY16-FY20

Positive Train Control Funding

The FAST Act provides $199 million from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust fund for Fiscal Year 2017 to assist commuter railroads with positive train control (PTC) implementation.  At the request of an eligible applicant, the FAST Act allows these funds to be used for either grants or to pay the subsidy and administrative costs of loans under the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program.

Additional details on FAST Act provisions related to rail development grants and policy can be found on forthcoming fact sheets.  Check back soon.

 

Financing Programs

The Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) Program provides direct federal loans and loan guarantees to finance the development of railroad infrastructure. The FAST Act contains several provisions intended to streamline the loan approval process, increase access to the Program, and fund a wider array of projects by:

  • Requiring the Secretary to implement procedures and measures to economize the time and cost involved in obtaining an approval or a disapproval of an application for a direct loan or loan guarantee;
  • Expanding applicant eligibility to allow for joint ventures that include at least one otherwise eligible applicant;
  • Authorizing financing for transit-oriented development (this authority expires four years from enactment);
  • Clarifying that pre-construction activities, such as planning and design, may be financed; and
  • Authorizing DOT to enter into Master Credit Agreements (an agreement to make one or more loans at future dates for a program of related projects on terms acceptable to the Secretary).

New DOT Finance Bureau: https://www.transportation.gov/buildamerica

The FAST Act establishes the National Surface Transportation and Innovative Finance Bureau (Bureau) within DOT. One of the Bureau’s purposes is to provide assistance and communicate best practices regarding DOT financing and funding opportunities. The Bureau has assumed the management of the RRIF Program.

Updated: October 11, 2016

Project Delivery

The FAST Act contains a number of project delivery reforms to reduce duplication of environmental reviews and enhance interagency coordination.  The Office of the Secretary is leading many of these reform efforts and more information is available on the Departmental FAST Act website at https://www.transportation.gov/fastact.

The FAST Act reforms certain elements of FRA’s environmental and historic preservation review processes to help accelerate the delivery of rail projects.  Such reforms include:

• An historic rail and transit line exemption from the requirements of Section 4(f) (49 U.S.C. 303) (Sec. 11502)
• Application of the project development procedures in 23 U.S.C. 139 to railroad projects. (Sec. 11503)
• The establishment of a Section 106 exemption for railroads rights-of-way consistent with the existing exemption for the Interstate Highway System. (Sec. 11504)
• A survey of FRA’s use of categorical exclusions and a rulemaking for new and existing categorical exclusions. (Sec. 11503)

FRA has developed guidance addressing specific FAST Act project delivery reforms in cooperation with the Federal Highway and Federal Transit Administrations: