Federal Railroad Administration

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Federal Railroad Administration
FRA logo 2017.jpeg
Agency overview
Formed April 1, 1967; 51 years ago (1967-04-01)
Jurisdiction United States Government
Headquarters Washington, DC
Employees 850
Annual budget $1.561 billion (2008)[1]
Agency executive
Parent agency U.S. Department of Transportation
Website Federal Railroad Administration

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is an agency in the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). The agency was created by the Department of Transportation Act of 1966.[2] The purpose of FRA is to promulgate and enforce rail safety regulations, administer railroad assistance programs, conduct research and development in support of improved railroad safety and national rail transportation policy, provide for the rehabilitation of Northeast Corridor rail passenger service, and consolidate government support of rail transportation activities.[3]

The FRA is one of 10 agencies within DOT concerned with intermodal transportation. It operates through seven divisions under the offices of the Administrator and Deputy Administrator. These divisions are: Financial Management and Administration, Chief Counsel, Civil Rights, Public Affairs, Public Engagement, Railroad Policy and Development, and Safety. It has a staff of about 850.[4]


The FRA oversees both passenger (top) and freight (bottom) rail operations in the United States.

All passenger and freight rail travel in the United States on the national interconnected rail infrastructure is subject to regulation by the FRA. FRA regulates public and intercity rail services, but does not regulate "closed" railways that operate exclusively on private property, such as a rail system between buildings at a steel mill, nor does it regulate subways, light rail or elevated intra-city passenger rail systems that do not connect to any public rail networks.[5] Most notably, the FRA enforces safety regulations, such as speed limits and requirements for safety features such as positive train control.[6] Non-legislative recommendations for FRA policy come from the Rail Safety Advisory Committee, established in 1996,[7] though much of FRA policy is created via congressional legislation; for example, the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 was an act of Congress, to which the FRA enforced through a series of regulations published two years later.[8] These regulations include enforcement of positive train control and enforcement of more stringent conductor certification requirements.[9][10]

FRA Inspection Train in St. Johnsville, NY

Recent Safety Initiatives[edit]

In 2011, the FRA began the process of updating its electronic device policy for active train operators.[11]

In June 2015, the FRA announced a railway safety initiative with Google that would include the FRAs GIS data into its mapping services. The data pinpoints the location of over 250,000 rail crossings in the United States. The FRA believes that providing the location of rail crossings in maps will enhance crossing safety by people who are using navigation systems while driving.[12][13]

List of administrators[edit]

Year began Year end Name Appointed by
1967 1969 A. Scheffer Lang Lyndon B. Johnson
1969 1970 Reginald Whitman Richard Nixon
1971 1974 John Ingram Richard Nixon
1974 1977 Asaph H. Hall Richard Nixon
1977 1981 John M. Sullivan Jimmy Carter
1981 1983 Robert W. Blanchette Ronald Reagan
1983 1989 John H. Riley Ronald Reagan
1989 1993 Gilbert Carmichael George H. W. Bush
1993 2000 Jolene Molitoris Bill Clinton
2001 2004 Allan Rutter George W. Bush
2004 2005 Betty Munro (acting) George W. Bush
2005 2008 Joseph H. Boardman George W. Bush
2008 2009 Clifford C. Eby (acting) George W. Bush
2009 2014 Joe Szabo Barack Obama
2015 2017 Sarah Feinberg Barack Obama
2017 2017 Patrick T. Warren (acting) Donald Trump
2017 2018 Heath Hall (acting) Donald Trump
2018 2018 Juan Reyes (acting) Donald Trump
2018 Ronald Batory Donald Trump


Sarah Feinberg was the Administrator of the FRA from 2015 to 2017.[18] Feinberg was the second woman to lead the agency. Her appointment was announced by United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx on January 12, 2015 and confirmed on October 28, 2015.[18] Feinberg had previously served as Foxx's Chief of Staff, managing DOT's ten modal organizations, and spearheading its legislative, policy, and communications efforts.[19] Feinberg's tenure as Administrator featured a greater emphasis on the enforcement of safety rules and regulations relative to her predecessors.[20]

Joe Szabo was the first FRA Administrator to be chosen from the ranks of railroad employment.[21][22][23].

Patrick T. Warren, Executive Director of the FRA, was an acting Administrator pending the appointment and confirmation of a new Administrator.[24] On 10 February 2018, Heath Hall, the acting Federal Railroad Administration chief since June 2017, resigned "effective immediately" over a Politico report that he has a second job as a public relations consultant for a local sheriff’s department[25] in Madison County, Mississippi. Head counsel Juan Reyes, named acting deputy administrator in January 2018, is now the acting chief. Presidential nominee Ronald Batory is awaiting confirmation for the position.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "U.S. Department of Transportation Fiscal Year 2009 Budget In Brief". Retrieved 2011-02-26. 
  2. ^ United States. Department of Transportation Act. 49 U.S.C. § 103, section 3(e)(1).
  3. ^ Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). "Federal Railroad Administration: About Us." Archived 2008-05-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Federal Railroad Administration (2010). Washington, DC."About the FRA." Archived 2010-09-14 at the Wayback Machine. Accessed 2010-08-28.
  5. ^ In this article http://www.alexblock.net/blog/2015/10/06/wmata-the-ntsb-and-the-fra-or-what-do-you-mean-the-metro-doesnt-count-as-a-railroad/ (Retrieved May 7, 2018), a subway or metro system that does not use infrastructure accessible from other networks, such as Washington DC's Metrorail system, the Chicago "L", or the New York City Subway, is not a "railroad" and FRA lacks jurisdiction over its operations.
  6. ^ "Railroad Safety". Federal Railroad Administration. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  7. ^ "Railroad Safety Advisory Committee". Federal Railroad Administration. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  8. ^ "Positive Train Control Systems". Federal Register. United States Office of the Federal Register. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  9. ^ "Positive Train Control". Federal Railroad Administration. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  10. ^ "Conductor Certification". Federal Railroad Administration. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  11. ^ "Electronic Device Distraction". Federal Railroad Administration. United States Department of Transportation. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  12. ^ "Google, FRA team up for safety; will add rail crossing data to maps". June 29, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  13. ^ Mouawad, Jad (June 29, 2015). "Agency Taps Mapping Technology to Curb Rail Crossing Accidents". New York Times. Retrieved April 27, 2016. 
  14. ^ "Heads of Operating Administrations". United States Department of Transportation, Office of the Historian. Retrieved 28 November 2017. 
  15. ^ "FRA Acting Administrator Named", APTA:Passenger Transport Express, December 5, 2008, accessed December 8, 2008
  16. ^ "Joseph H. Boardman Begins Role as New Administrator for Federal Railroad Administration With Focus on Rail Safety and Intercity Passenger Rail Reform" (Press release). FRA. June 1, 2005. Archived from the original on 2005-10-28. Retrieved 2005-06-06. 
  17. ^ Progressive Railroading (April 30, 2009). "Senate confirms Szabo's nomination as FRA administrator". Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  18. ^ a b Michael Laris; Ashley Halsey III (28 October 2015). "Sarah Feinberg confirmed as new head of Federal Railroad Administration". The Washington Post. Retrieved 19 November 2015. 
  19. ^ "U.S Transportation Secretary Foxx Names Sarah Feinberg Acting Administrator of FRA". Briefing Room. Federal Railroad Administration. 2015-01-12.  Press release.
  20. ^ "Exiting rail safety chief Feinberg looks to technology to save lives". lohud.com. Retrieved 2017-02-28. 
  21. ^ Progressive Railroading (April 30, 2009). "Senate confirms Szabo's nomination as FRA administrator". Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  22. ^ "FRA's Szabo announces resignation". Metro Magazine. Retrieved 8 April 2015. 
  23. ^ "Senate confirms UTU's Szabo to FRA". UTU News. United Transportation Union. April 29, 2009. Archived from the original on June 12, 2011. Retrieved May 3, 2009. 
  24. ^ https://cms.dot.gov/transition/fra-key-personnel
  25. ^ "U.S. rail official steps down after questions raised over outside work". Reuters. 10 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 
  26. ^ "Top Railroad Safety Official Resigns, Amid Questions About Holding A Second Job". NPR. 10 February 2018. Retrieved 11 February 2018. 

External links[edit]