FRA CID Program: The National Perspective

Over 2½ years have passed since the signing of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that, among other major initiatives, led to the establishment of Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Corridor Identification and Development (CID) program. The aim of the program is to reinvigorate US passenger rail and develop ‘a world-class rail system’ that is safe, clean, and equitable.

69 corridors have been accepted into the program, with many applicants now involved in the work of delivering on Step 1 of the project development. Step 1 is a crucial stepping-stone in establishing a successful passenger rail service. There is an opportunity to not only secure the required FRA approved statement of work (SoW), schedule, and budget, but also to ensure that appropriate foundations are in place to make informed development decisions to the long-term benefit of the communities served.

As the FRA and its partners continue to develop their approach, we are learning more about the likely nature and needs for how the CID program might move forward in considering proposals. For example, at the USHSR Association’s Annual Conference earlier in May we heard clear expectations from political and Administration leaders including Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, FRA Administrator Amit Bose, Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi, and former White House Senior Advisor Mitch Landrieu. Key messages included:

  • That equity and inclusion considerations are vital in what constitutes a successful passenger rail service.
  • Evidence of endorsement and support by local agencies and participants is important in establishing credibility and ensuring project development is not delayed.
  • That FRA requirements against which proposed services are assessed may yet evolve.

The implications for successful proposals are therefore becoming clearer. To secure finite public funding proposals will need to be robust in their local support, resilient to different scenarios, and effective in meeting the diverse needs of their communities.

That’s why at Steer we work closely with our clients to establish a well-defined strategic assessment process for Step 1, that also flows seamlessly into Step 2 development, including:

  • Identifying goals and objectives for the proposed passenger rail service(s);
  • Building in approaches to engage, understand, and solicit active participation of communities, including those likely to be difficult to reach or who may not be ready proponents.
  • Specifying how each aspect in the SoW can establish value against these goals and objectives;
  • Evaluating existing work and prioritizing scope focus for Step 2;
  • Assuring and documenting the process progressively to provide clear rationale and build confidence; and
  • Powerful articulation of the analysis and conclusions to aid decision makers.

By using this strategic assessment process, we help guide our clients – many of whom may be somewhat new to the passenger rail market – in navigating the complex and sometimes competing priorities of FRA and local stakeholders.

This means that our clients can proceed through each step of the work with confidence that they not only have a scope the FRA is happy with, but also one that is geared towards achieving the underlying ambition of delivering a successful and sustainable long-term passenger rail service to the benefit of their communities.

If the CID program meets the ambitions of the original BIL there is every reason to be confident that America will boast a new and world-class mode of transportation. It’ll take tenacity, creativity, and rigor, and Steer is ready to play its part.


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