The United States is facing increasing congestion on the Nation's highways and capacity constraints on the national rail system. Higher gasoline prices are increasing public demand for energy-efficient transportation alternatives. Faced with these challenges and increased emphasis on multimodal planning under federal transportation statutes (i.e., ISTEA, TEA-21, and SAFETEA-LU), state interest in intercity passenger and commuter rail development has grown significantly in recent years. Thirteen states support Amtrak service and 38 states have developed or participated in developing plans for enhanced intercity passenger rail service. A growing number of commuter rail systems operate on lines of various ownership configurations (e.g., freight railroad, county, city, state, and transit authorities). AASHTO's report Intercity Passenger Rail Transportation (January 2003) documents $17 billion in state-defined infrastructure and equipment needs over 6 years and another $43 billion in needs over the next two decades. Eighty percent of these needs involve investments in privately owned freight corridors. Several states have well-established rail passenger programs through which capital and operating funds are provided to ensure intercity, commuter, and transit services. Other states are beginning to implement rail passenger service plans and projects. Most of these rail services will operate on freight corridors. The concept of passenger and freight operations co-existing in shared-use corridors is central to further development of state-supported passenger rail service in the United States. All current Amtrak service is on shared-use corridors. Virtually all plans for enhanced passenger rail service, both intercity and commuter rail, developed by states are based on the shared-use corridor concept.
Congress is considering legislation to provide federal funding assistance to states for passenger rail service, and increasingly, states have committed their own funds to support various passenger rail services. Recent legislative proposals call for states and freight railroads to reach agreements regarding access, the proper level of infrastructure improvements, maintenance costs, and other issues before federal, state, local, or private project funding is provided. There is no broadly accepted methodology to address these issues equitably so that the public interest is served and private freight railroads have a reasonable incentive for entering into such agreements. The lack of such a methodology sets the stage for a long, costly, and often frustrating negotiating process for all participants that can significantly delay or jeopardize project implementation.
The objective of this research is to develop a guidebook for determining the appropriate level of publicly and privately funded investments and for establishing performance standards for passenger and freight rail services operating on shared-use corridors. The guidebook should encourage the broad acceptance of improved principles, processes, and methods to support agreements on access, cost allocation, capacity allocation, operational issues, future responsibilities for capacity improvements, and other fundamental issues that will affect the ultimate success of shared-use passenger and freight agreements between public and private railroad stakeholders.
The final report has been published as NCHRP Report 657 and is available here.