Obtaining Railroad Operating Agreements Early

Date:                          April 15, 2011


Project Name:           Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit (CFCRT) Project


Abstract:                    Obtaining Railroad Operating Agreements Early in a Project’s Life


Project Phase(s):       Pre-Preliminary Engineering (Pre-PE) through Final Design


Category:                   Project Management


1. Background


The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is planning to construct a commuter rail transit system to serve communities in Central Florida.  The Central Florida Commuter Rail Transit (CFCRT) Project (also known as SunRail) is a 61-mile new commuter rail system, which will serve 17 stations (Full-Build Alternative).  The Project will operate along the existing CSX Transportation (CSXT) A-Line corridor, which FDOT is purchasing from CSXT.  The SunRail system will operate entirely at-grade, sharing track with freight service provided by CSXT and Florida Central Railroad, as well as intercity passenger rail service provided by Amtrak.  Therefore, operating agreements with these rail service providers is necessary.



The Initial Operating Segment (IOS) of the CFCRT Project, or Phase 1, is a 32-mile corridor consisting of 12 stations.  Phase 1 includes the purchase of seven diesel electric passenger locomotives, nine cab cars and five coaches; approximately 18-miles of additional second track being added to the existing 11-miles of double track; a new railway wayside signal and communication system; grade crossing upgrades; station platforms and canopies at all 12 stations; park-and-ride lots at seven stations; construction of a Vehicle Storage and Maintenance Facility (VSMF); an operations control center; and other elements.



In order to be considered for a Full Funding Grant Agreement (FFGA) on Phase 1 of the CFCRT Project, FDOT was required to have executed railroad operating agreements with CSXT and Amtrak, as well as close on the sale of the CSXT railroad corridor.



In November 2007, FDOT and CSXT completed negotiations and signed/executed the Central Florida Operating and Management Agreement, Transition Agreement, and Contract of Sale and Purchase.  However, the closing of the sale of the corridor was contingent upon the passing of legislation by the Florida State Legislature regarding insurance provisions for the CFCRT system.  It was initially thought that this legislation would be passed by the Legislature during its 2008 session, but this did not occur.  Subsequently, the legislation was defeated again during the next legislative session in 2009.  Local politics and special interests played a part of the non-passage of this legislation during both the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions.  In early December 2009, this legislation was finally passed during a special session held by the Florida Legislature, and was signed into law on December 16, 2009 by Florida’s Governor.  FDOT closed in escrow on the corridor on December 22, 2010, and will take control upon award of the FFGA.



In July 2008, FDOT executed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Amtrak that addressed the following items: (1) bus bridge service; (2) service interruptions; (3) negotiation of a Contractual Services Agreement with Amtrak for servicing and maintaining the CFCRT rail fleet at the Amtrak’s AutoTrain facility; (4) design of the jointly shared stations; and (5) negotiation of an Operating Agreement for Amtrak service over State property.  However, Amtrak and FDOT reached a stalemate in negotiations of the Operating Agreement primarily with regard to insurance.  Subsequently, Amtrak terminated the MOU with FDOT in late February 2010 since this issue had not been resolved to Amtrak’s satisfaction.  As a result, the project’s schedule for receiving an FFGA was significantly impacted since this agreement was required to be in place and executed prior to award of the FFGA.  In December 2010, Amtrak and FDOT completed negotiations for the Operating Agreement.  This agreement was signed by Amtrak on January 25, 2011, with FDOT to sign and execute the agreement in the near future prior to award of the project’s FFGA.



2. The Lesson


There are several lessons that can be learned from the CFCRT Project:





3. Applicability


The lesson is applicable to Grantees with projects in which railroad agreements are necessary for operation.


4. Contact Person(s)



Ms. Teresa Stein, PE

Task Order Manager

Hill International, Inc.

30 South 15th Street, 13th Floor

Philadelphia, PA 19102

(215) 557-3253




Ms. Tawny Olore, PE

SunRail Program Management

FDOT – Orlando Urban Office

133 South Semoran Boulevard

Orlando, FL  32807

(407) 482-7879