Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

The FY2012 budget submission for FRA's Research, Development and Technology is $95.5 million. The core Research & Development (R&D) component is $40 million. This is an increase of approximately $2.4 million over the enacted FY2010 level. The FY2012 submission also includes $50 million for high-speed rail R&D, which is an increase of $20 million from the FY2010 level.

Core Railroad R&D Program: $40M

The core railroad R&D program ($40M) provides science and technology support for FRA's safety rulemaking and enforcement efforts. It also stimulates technological advances in conventional and high-speed railroads. The program focuses on the following areas of research:

  • Railroad systems issues research into system safety, performance-based regulations, equipment and infrastructure security, and environmental issues.
  • Human factors research to evaluate risks due to human factors related causes to identify, develop and support the introduction of solutions.
  • Rolling stock and components research into on-board and wayside monitoring systems, and material and design improvements to address equipment related risks.
  • Track and structures research into inspection techniques, material and component reliability, track and structure design and performance, and track stability.
  • Track and train interaction research into derailment mechanisms and vehicle-track performance.
  • Train control research, testing and evaluation of train control systems.
  • Grade crossings research into human factors and infrastructure failure causes of accidents.
  • Hazardous materials transportation research into HAZMAT transportation safety, damage assessment and inspection, and improved tank car safety.
  • Train occupant protection - research into improved locomotive and passenger car safety and crashworthiness.
  • Facilities and test equipment support to the Transportation Technology Center (TTC), and the maintenance and operation of inspection cars used for track research and monitoring. TTC is a government-owned facility near Pueblo, Colorado, operated by the Association of American Railroads under a contract for care, custody and control.
  • National Cooperative Rail Research Program (NCRRP) enables the FRA to (1) efficiently gather inputs from all stakeholders (e.g. railroads, states, technology partners and university researchers) in the Nation's rail transportation system to establish research priorities; and (2) accelerate the real-world impact of FRA's R&D by strengthening and broadening the academic and industrial railroad technical communities.

High-Speed Rail R&D: $50M

The high-speed rail R&D program addresses the important safety risks when the density or speed of passenger trains increases, and the new technology that is needed to realize the vision described in the National Rail Plan progress report, September 2010. Examples of key safety-related high-speed rail research needs are interoperability with existing equipment, and more accurate and optimum track components for shared passenger and freight corridors. Examples of new technology needs for high-speed are track-friendly locomotives and higher speed track inspection methods.

The core and high-speed R&D programs strongly support the Department's key safety goal. Core research into track, equipment and signaling and train control contributes significantly to the state of good repair goal. Track and signaling research makes significant contribution to the economic competitiveness goal by demonstrating the performance of domestically manufactured components. Railroad systems research into alternative fuels and lubricants is directed towards the environmental sustainability goal. High-speed rail R&D contributes to most of the DOT's strategic goals, including a significant focus on livable communities.

The increase in the budget for core R&D compared to the FY2010 enacted level is explained as follows:

  • Track research program (additional $1M) to facilitate the implementation of previously developed technologies for inspecting, analyzing and monitoring the track system; to ensure TTC is ready to test new components arriving on the market; and to fund the new NCRRP.
  • Equipment and operating practices program (additional $887k) to increase the focus on human factors causes of accidents including fatigue and distraction; to accelerate the research into improved crashworthiness of passenger cars; and to advance environmental sustainability technologies.
  • Signals, train control and communication program (additional $500k) to accelerate the development of Positive Train Control technologies to help achieve the 2015 deadline for implementation; and for additional technology demonstrations aimed at increasing grade crossing safety.

The increased budget for high-speed rail R&D ($50M) shown as Capital Assistance for High Speed Rail) is a direct result of the increased funding requested for the development of high-speed rail corridors. Significant investment is required at TTC to ensure the facility is prepared for testing high-speed rail equipment and components. Domestic suppliers of rail technology and products require stimulus funding to ensure they are ready to meet the demands of the future high-speed rail market.

The Volpe National Transportation System Center is a key partner for FRA and supports many of FRA's R&D projects and initiatives. In addition, there are currently nine universities that receive FRA R&D grants, which also directly support FRA's R&D mission and goals.


(In thousands of dollars)

FY 2012
Pres. Bud.
FY 2012
FY 2012
A. Railroad Research and Development 37,613 40,000 7,725 29,425
Track Structures        
Track and Structures 5,450 5,450 1,550 3,900
Track and Train Interaction 3,600 3,800 1,200 2,600
R&D Facilities and Test Equipment (F) 2,550 2,850 NA NA
Rail Cooperative Research Program 0 500 500 0
Equipment and Operating Practices        
Human Factors 3,270 3,670 375 3,295
Rolling Stock and Components 3,000 3,000 300 2,700
Hazardous Materials Transportation 1,550 1,550 250 1,300
Train Occupant Protection 4,600 4,700 1,200 3,500
Railroad Systems Issues 3,623 4,010 1,000 3,010
Signals, Train Control and Communication        
Train Control 7,870 8,270 1,000 7,270
Grade Crossings 2,100 2,200 350 1,850
B. Capital Assistance for High Speed Rail Corridors   30,000 50,000 10,000 40,000
C. Safety and Operations 3,974 5,454 1,200 4,254
1. Salaries and Expenses (R&D) 3,974 5,454 1,200 4,254
Subtotal, Research & Development 69,037 92,604 18,925 73,679
Subtotal, Technology Investment (T) 0 0    
Subtotal, Facilities (F) 2,550 2,850    
Total FRA 71,587 95,454 18,925 73,679