The National Academies

NCFRP 30 [Final]

Web-Based Screening Tool for Shared-Use Rail Corridors

  Project Data
Funds: $500,000
Research Agency: DecisionTek
Principal Investigator: Daniel Brod
Effective Date: 10/8/2010
Completion Date: 4/30/2013
Comments: Research results have been published as NCFRP Report 27.

As the United States emerges from the current recession, the country will once again face 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 (Act). Subpart j of the Act directs the administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (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 publicly 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 services. 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.
The objective of this research is to develop a web-based 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 publication, Rail Corridor Transportation Plans, A Guidance Manual (http://www.fra.dot.gov/downloads/rrdev/corridor_planning.pdf). The tool is not intended to support either capital budgeting or facility design beyond the schematic/conceptual level.
Phase 1
(1). Inventory, describe, and assess the functionality of existing train operations simulation and capacity tools and their potential relevance to the objective of the proposed research. (2). For the identified tools, describe the data needed to populate them. (3). Conduct a gap analysis of the availability of public and private data identified in Task 2. Describe alternatives for obtaining or inferring publicly unavailable data and assess the applicability and potential consequences of using inferred data for each of the tools identified in Task 1. (4). Based on the results of Tasks 1 through 3, propose a set of functions and outputs that best meets the FRA guidance referenced in the objective and uses publicly available or inferred data. Prepare an interim report summarizing the results of Tasks 1 through 4 within 3 months of contract execution. The interim report shall also contain a detailed work plan for the development of the web-based screening tool, including a software development plan, for the proposed tool to be developed in Task 5. 
Phase 2
 (5). Based on the results of Phase 1 and the input of the project panel, develop a web-based screening tool for shared-use passenger and freight rail corridor projects.  (6). Prepare a FRA-hosted web-based beta version of the tool (see Note F), full documentation (including data structures, data requirements, and source code), and a draft user’s manual. Revise based on NCFRP review and comments. (7).  Identify five shared-use corridors for case studies, encompassing various levels of commuter, intercity, and freight traffic. Describe the relevance of each proposed case study and how each would be used to evaluate the functionality and accuracy of the proposed tool. The NCFRP will select three cases for application and evaluation of the screening tool.  (8). Conduct the three case studies. Calibrate, validate, and conduct sensitivity analyses on the case studies, and provide draft results and findings to the panel. Following NCFRP review and comment, make recommended changes to the web-based tool and related documentation. (9). Three months prior to contract completion date, submit a preliminary draft final report documenting the research, a web-based tool to be hosted on the FRA website, a systems administrator’s guide, and a user’s manual (see Note G). 
STATUS:  Published as NCFRP Report 27.  The report is also available electronically at


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