Transformed FRA Supports BIL Surge in Passenger Rail Proposals


From left: Amit Bose, Jamie Rennert, Michael Longley, James Garland, Michael Hunter.

For two years, FRA has been working aggressively to meet demand for rail travel in the U.S. With billions of BIL dollars, the expanding agency has helped advance nearly 170 rail projects, identified almost 70 rail corridors for development, and streamlined operations with a realignment to connect the offices of planning and engineering.

FRA Administrator Amit Bose itemized these achievements during the Federal Railroad Administration Update at the APTA Legislative Conference, then promised that investments in a “world class passenger rail service” with safety and equity would continue. Bose then asked the four FRA directors participating in the session to discuss their 2024 passenger rail goals.

Michael Longley, Office of Rail Program Development, mentioned four 2024 grant programs, and several tools from his office to make applications less burdensome and more transparent. A project readiness checklist, Justice40 rail tool, and locomotive emissions comparison tool are all included in the funding notice, and a Rail Assistance Application Database offers all the needed forms and requirements online. This summer, his office will also host a project workshop.

Jamie Rennert’s Office of Regional Outreach & Project Delivery is focused on enabling selected project stakeholders to start turning dirt with “pre-award authority,” before grant funds are obligated. She said state partnerships can strengthen project applications, but “really it’s whoever has the organizational capacity and the ability to bring non-federal funding into the program.”

Michael Hunter, Office of Railroad Systems & Technology, said his office would soon complete a 20-year effort to create the guidance for U.S. high-speed rail with updated safety standards. It has also created safety teams regionally, partnering with railroads, “to help them navigate regulatory issues, and bring (them) to the agency, should questions arise.”

Hunter also detailed FRA’s response, investigation, and reporting process for Positive Train Control failures and said he hoped to re-institute some expired “flexibilities” around supporting stranded commuters later this year.

James Garland, Office of Rail Planning & Engineering, has been hiring engineers, to ensure timely project reviews, provide clear guidance, and to meet stakeholders “where they are,” on projects. He also discussed the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study ( on restoring intercity passenger rail services that were discontinued in 1971. He projected final recommendations from the study coming out this summer.