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The FRA now seems to be insisting that, in most cases, these are not light railways, but must be considered "commuter railroads", and therefore must comform with FRA's full requirements for "heavy" railroad operations.
In recent years, FTA policies have made it increasingly difficult for local areas to receive funding for new rail transit projects, so transit agencies have increasingly sought other sources of funds to finance these projects.
If the FRA decides that a line is a "commuter railroad" that does not fall under FTA's jurisdiction, the rolling stock, infrastructure and operations must comply with FRA requirements.
In Austin, this could mean some major increases in operating requirements and costs plus an overhaul of all of the Stadler GTW light railway DMUs to meet FRA's "heavy" railroad safety and operational standards.
The FRA rules currently do not recognize light rail, so rail power cars in any of the rail systems that come under their jurisdiction are considered by FRA to be "locomotives." And, as such, they must meet FRA "locomotive" standards, which mean that either light railway rolling stock cannot be used, or already procured cars must be retrofitted.
the FRA evidently consider the Capital Metro Rail line in Austin to be a test case, and if they are successful in asserting their jurisdiction, they will do so for numerous other rail projects in development throughout the country This new policy stance by the FRA seems to fit into a consistent pattern of policy measures by the George W.
Time-separated light rail and "heavy" freight rail operations share the same tracks at a number of locations in Europe and a few in North America, and there have not been accidents between the two types of trains.
Non-electric systems using DMUs are operating in San Diego (Oceanside-Escondido Sprinter) and between Camden and Trenton (New Jersey Transit's River Line), where system designers have implemented scheduling procedures and signal-protected safety controls to ensure smooth sharing of the tracks.
In the USA, the Bush Administration has been implementing a number of policies that make it increasingly difficult for cities and counties to pursue light rail.
(See, for example: With Rail Leading, America's Transit Ridership Soars But After Years of Underfunding, Agencies Plunge Into Crisis.) One of the more ominous of these developments involves the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) oversight of light rail transit (LRT) lines and other light railways that travel outside the urban core or use existing freight rail track.
But such collisions could occur only if the rail transit trains and "heavy" railroad trains were operating on the same tracks at the same time – and transit agencies make sure this isn't possible.