Sneak Preview: FTA Rule Boosts State Oversight of Rail Transit

April 22, 2016 | By Jerry Ashworth | Post a Comment

xgran_bookshot(The following was excerpted from a recent article in the Federal Grants Management Handbook.) States with operating rail fixed guideway transit systems, such as subway systems or trolleys, now have three years to establish a State Safety Oversight (SSO) program for certification by the Department of Transportation, Federal Transit Administration (FTA) or risk being prohibited from receiving federal rail safety funding, under a new rule issued by FTA aimed at giving states more oversight and enforcement authority over rail transit safety.

The rule, located at Title 49, Part 674 of the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), will replace the current regulation at 49 C.F.R. Part 659 when the new rule becomes effective on April 15. It applies to 30 states with operating rail transit systems.

Current SSO regulations: (1) require states with operating rail transit systems to designate an SSO agency, which is responsible for establishing standards for rail safety and security practices and procedures to be used by rail transit agencies in its jurisdiction; (2) establish requirements for accident notifications; and (3) and set forth a framework for rail transit agency corrective actions plans in response to security reviews. However, these regulations give little enforcement power to the SSO agencies or FTA, other than enabling FTA to withhold 5 percent of Urbanized Area Formula Program funds if a state does not comply with the SSO regulations.

To establish a more comprehensive federal SSO program, the new rule requires states, by April 15, 2019, establish a SSO program that can be certified by FTA as effective. FTA has already certified two of the affected 30 states — California and Massachusetts. Although the rule becomes effective April 15, the existing regulations at 49 C.F.R. Part 659 will remain in effect during the three-year transition period and then be rescinded.

If a state does not comply with the new regulation after the three-year transition period, FTA can withhold SSO grant funds from the state; withhold up to 5 percent of the state’s urbanized area formula funds; or require that all rail fixed guideway public transportation systems governed by the program spend other federal funds on safety-related improvements to their systems.

(The full version of this story has now been made available to all for a limited time on Thompson’s Grants Compliance Expert site.)


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