National Academies Press: OpenBook

Web-Based Screening Tool for Shared-Use Rail Corridors (2014)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Background

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Background." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Web-Based Screening Tool for Shared-Use Rail Corridors. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22329.
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81.1 Introduction The United States faces increased congestion on its highways and capacity constraints on its national rail system. In response to increased public demand for energy efficient transportation alternatives, Congress enacted the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008. Subpart j of the Act directs the administrator of the FRA to develop partnerships between the freight and passenger railroad industries and to provide assistance in assessing railroad operations, capacity, and capital requirements on shared-use corridors where pub- licly funded passenger rail trains are operated over privately owned freight rail lines. Nearly all Amtrak service operates over privately owned freight rail lines as will most of the new and enhanced intercity and commuter rail service now under consideration. In fact, the shared-use corridor concept is critical to the further development of all forms of passenger rail service. Historically, the federal government has provided capital and operating grants to ensure intercity and commuter rail service. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009 authorized $9.3 billion to the FRA for high-speed rail corridors and intercity passenger rail service. Several states have well-established rail passenger programs through which capital and operating funds are provided for all forms of passenger rail service. Other states and regional authorities are beginning to implement passenger rail service plans and projects. Given the limited resources available for such projects, it is important that public agencies have a screening tool that will identify rail passenger projects that warrant further detailed investigation utilizing more rigorous analytic tools. NCFRP Project 30 sought to develop such a screening tool to address these needs. 1.2 Research Objective The objective of the research was to develop a Web-based screening tool to enable states and passenger rail operators to perform preliminary feasibility screening of proposed shared- use passenger and freight rail corridor projects. The goal of the tool is to assist in preliminary analysis as defined in the FRA pub- lication, Rail Corridor Transportation Plans: A Guidance Manual. (1) The tool is not intended to support either capital budgeting or facility design beyond the schematic/conceptual level. 1.3 Interpretation of the Objective Based on the objective, the researchers added their under- standing of it as follows: • Provide practical research culminating in a Web-based tool for screening shared-use rail projects. For practical research to culminate in a tool, the team was mindful of the end solution, understanding the software requirements and challenges that Web-based technologies present. Thus, the software development process was closely integrated with the research at an early stage, rather than decoupling research and software development, which is a common misstep that often results in failure to produce a useful tool. • Provide user documentation that offers practical guid- ance for performing preliminary feasibility screening of projects. The user documentation (users manual and case studies) is a critical component in the successful deployment of the tool. The documentation offers clear and complete guidance in using the tool and conducting analyses with it. C H A P T E R 1 Background

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TRB’s National Cooperative Freight Research Program (NCFRP) Report 27: Web-Based Screening Tool for Shared-Use Rail Corridors describes a tool designed to help perform preliminary feasibility screening of proposed shared-use passenger and freight rail corridor projects. The web-based screening tool described in the report is available on the U.S. Federal Railroad Administration website.

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