States risk billions in rail funding without FTA safety OK

Written by Railway Age Staff
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The Federal Transit Administration said states that miss the deadline for certifying rail safety oversight programs are risking billions of dollars in government funding.

The FTA at a news conference Monday reminded states that only one year remains until the April 15, 2019, deadline to obtain the agency’s certification of their State Safety Oversight (SSO) Programs, meant to provide more effective oversight of rail transit systems in their jurisdictions.

“Safety is our top priority, and FTA is committed to working with states to help them fulfill their safety responsibilities,” said FTA Acting Administrator K. Jane Williams. “These Safety Oversight Programs will make our rail transit systems safer for the millions of Americans relying on them each day.”

The FTA by law is prohibited from awarding new federal transit funds to any transit provider in a state that fails to meet the deadline, until certification is achieved. This includes all FTA formula and competitive grant programs, such as the Capital Investment Grant program. By law, the deadline cannot be waived or extended.

Thirty states with rail transit systems still need FTA certification by the April 15, 2019, deadline. An online certification status table shows that to date, only eight states have received certification with the remainder at various stages of the process.

Among other funding, the agency along with the Federal Railroad Administration in 2017 awarded $197 million to commuter and intercity passenger railroads for 17 projects in 13 states, to help them meet the December 18, 2018 deadline for implementing Positive Train Control under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.

“FTA strongly recommends that states submit their certification applications as soon as possible,” the agency said. “States should not assume that applications submitted after September 30, 2018, will be certified by the deadline.”

Since 2013, FTA has provided approximately $112.4 million in grant funds to eligible states to develop and implement a SSO Program that is compliant with federal requirements.

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