Benefit-Cost Analysis Guidance

About this Guidance

Section 11313(b) of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, Public Law 114-94 (December 4, 2015), requires the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) to “enhance the usefulness of assessments of benefits and costs for intercity passenger rail and freight rail projects.”  As directed by Section 11313, FRA is issuing benefit-cost analysis (BCA) guidance (the BCA Guidance) to fulfill these requirements.

FRA strongly believes that the systematic process of identifying, quantifying, and comparing expected benefits and costs helps decision-makers organize information about, and evaluate trade-offs among, alternative transportation investments.  In addition to serving as a valuable tool for defining and narrowing investment alternatives, BCAs are also increasingly a prerequisite to receive financial assistance under Federal investment programs, including those administered by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

FRA drafted the BCA Guidance to be consistent with the DOT BCA guidance, which covers a wide range of surface transportation projects (e.g., highways, transit, rail, and ports) under the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program and the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) program. The FRA BCA Guidance is intended to provide greater granularity and specificity to benefit and cost issues associated with intercity passenger rail and freight rail projects. 

Applicability to Financial Assistance Programs

While FRA considers the BCA Guidance to be effective upon its release, project sponsors and potential applicants for FRA financial assistance programs should refer to any Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) announcement for further instruction regarding the applicability of the BCA Guidance to a particular application or funding program.  Due to the timing of the release of the BCA Guidance, the BCA Guidance does not apply to applications for Railroad Safety Infrastructure Improvement Grants (applications due to FRA by June 14, 2016).

Public Comment

FRA is requesting public comment on the contents of the BCA Guidance to inform any potential future revisions.  Additional information regarding the comment process can be found in FRA’s official Notice and Request for Comment on Benefit-Cost Analysis Guidance for Rail.