Understanding the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)
Welcome to Understanding FRA. Here you will find information about what FRA does, how it is organized, and how it operates. For additional information about FRA, please go to fra.dot.gov.
Who We Are
The Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) mission is to enable the safe, reliable, and efficient movement of people and goods for a strong America, now and in the future. FRA executes this mission through development and enforcement of safety regulations, investment in passenger and freight rail services and infrastructure, and research into and development of innovations and technology solutions.
The United States needs a transportation system that supports a growing economy and a larger, more urbanized population. As the U.S. population grows, freight demand also rises and increases stress on our freight system, which moves about 63 tons of goods per American per year. In the face of the related transportation challenges of safety, congestion, and environmental sustainability, robust rail transportation is and will continue to be an integral component of the U.S. multimodal network.
Today's rail transportation is safer than ever. From Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 to FY 2015, total train accidents declined by 38 percent, derailments declined by 39 percent, and highway-rail grade crossing fatalities declined by 31 percent. The number of fatal accidents involving railroad employees is now about half the number in early 1990s. Although safety performance has improved, railroads must adopt system safety and risk reduction programs, foster strong safety cultures, and implement better operating practices and technologies such as positive train control (PTC) and electronically controlled pneumatic brakes to realize future safety improvements.
- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), established by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966, is the consolidated successor to agencies previously housed in the Departments of Commerce and Interior and the Interstate Commerce Commission.
- FRA is one of ten agencies within DOT concerned with intermodal transportation. FRA promotes safe, environmentally sound, successful railroad transportation to meet the needs of all customers today and tomorrow.
- FRA employs about 950 professionals in three functional areas to fulfill FRA's mission: safety, policy and development, and executive leadership and support. Most employees report to the Office of Railroad Safety, with remaining staff in the Offices of Railroad Policy and Development, Administration, Chief Counsel, Chief Financial Officer, and the Administrator. More than half of FRA employees are deployed outside of Washington, D.C.
- FRA has multiple responsibilities regarding Amtrak (the National Railroad Passenger Corporation), which Congress established in 1970. Amtrak is an independent entity for day-to-day operations and corporate activities, while the Federal Government exercises long-term structural control through the Congressional charter, Board of Directors, and funding. Amtrak's rail network consists of more than 21,300 route-miles and serves more than 500 destinations in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and 3 Canadian provinces.
- The 140,000 mile, U.S. rail network will face increasing safety, infrastructure, and operational challenges as the U.S. adds 70 million residents and 37 percent more rail freight traffic between 2015 and 2045.
What We Do
- Railroad Safety: FRA's safety strategy includes ongoing analysis of railroad operational and accident data, comprehensive regulations that establish minimum levels of safety equipment and practice, rigorous oversight through routine and targeted inspections and audits, and progressively rising civil and criminal penalties when necessary to address noncompliance. FRA's safety promotion activities, such as programs to improve safety culture and to partner with local law enforcement agencies, augment regulatory oversight. FRA also has an active research, development, and technology program to develop and implement new technologies and practices that mitigate safety challenges.
- Federal Activities Regarding Amtrak: FRA roles regarding Amtrak include supporting the Secretary of Transportation's membership on the Amtrak Board of Directors and other national rail transportation policy activities; administering Federal grants and ensuring adherence with grant agreement provisions; providing technical assistance and standards for Amtrak capital planning and equipment; and overseeing and enforcing Amtrak compliance with Federal rail safety regulations.
- Investing in Passenger Rail Development: FRA invests its $25 billion grant portfolio in projects that deliver public benefits. FRA's responsibilities include grantee and project selection, award, monitoring, oversight, and technical assistance to ensure completion on time and on budget. FRA has funded nearly 150 projects in 35 states and the District of Columbia through the $10 billion High-Speed and Intercity Passenger Rail Program. Nearly 85 percent of these investments relate to 6 corridors: San Francisco-Los Angeles; Boston-New York City-Washington, D.C.; Seattle-Portland-Eugene; Charlotte-Washington, D.C.; Chicago-St. Louis; and Chicago-Detroit.
- Improving Passenger and Freight Rail Service: With funding, technical assistance, tools, and coordination, FRA facilitates national and regional rail planning to maintain current services and infrastructure, expand and improve the rail network for the future, relieve aviation and highway congestion, and enhance communities. Conducting rail planning within a broad regional framework integrates rail projects and highway, transit, aviation, and non-motorized transportation; yields more cost-effective investments; prioritizes uses of limited funding; and promotes engagement with more stakeholders. Plans also identify institutional arrangements, financial requirements, and other needs.
- State Railroad Safety Participation Program: FRA trains, certifies, and delegates to qualifying State agencies the authority to enforce Federal railroad safety laws. Thirty-one States employing nearly 200 safety inspectors currently participate. State programs generally emphasize compliance inspections; however, some undertake investigative and surveillance activities depending on State needs and capabilities.
Find more information on FRA programs and statutory codes.
Line of Succession
Per DOT/FRA Order 1100.23 G, page 18, July 1, 2016
Line of Succession. In the absence from the office, disability, or vacancy in the position of the Federal Railroad Administrator, the Deputy Administrator is authorized to act for, and perform the duties of, the Administrator under authority of Title 49 of the CFR § 1.89.
In the absence from the office, disability, or vacancy in the position of both the Administrator and the Deputy Administrator, the duties of the Administrator, except for any non-delegable duties, are hereby delegated to the following officials in the order indicated below. In order to qualify as the next current official in line, officials below the level of the Deputy Administrator must be encumbered in their current positions on a permanent, not acting, basis. In the absence from the office, disability, or vacancy in the position of an official, the duties are delegated to the next official in line.
- Deputy Administrator
- Chief Counsel
- Executive Director
- Associate Administrator for Railroad Safety and Chief Safety Officer
- Associate Administrator for Railroad Policy and Development
- Associate Administrator for Administration
- Chief Financial Officer
- Regional Administrator, Region 8 (Vancouver, Washington)
- Regional Administrator, Region 1 (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
FRA Labor Union Agreement
You can find more information on FRA's Labor Union Agreement in the file below.
FRA 10-Year Budget History
Learn more about FRA's funding history in the spreadsheet below.