Tom Ewing’s Regulatory Update

* Design out the Kryptonite: The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a RFI last week seeking comments on development of its new Corridor Identification and Development Program (the Program) “to facilitate the development of new, enhanced, and restored intercity passenger rail corridors throughout the country.” This is on a, uh, fast track: the Program is to be established by May 14! Critical to the effort is development of Service Development Plans (SDPs) and FRA’s request is built around a framework of 14 major questions, many of which focus on SDPs and many of the 14 questions have numerous and detailed sub-questions. An SDP needs to address 12 factors, including potential service, capital projects needing funding, schedules, sponsors and, importantly, #8 – a financial plan. Money, big money: that’s where, historically, the kryptonite always seeps into passenger rail efforts. Maybe this time will be different.

*Changed Our Minds, Sorry:

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On February 8 Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced it was rescinding its “Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) for the I–5 Rose Quarter Improvement Project in Portland, Oregon.” This project seemed to check many important urban boxes: it makes I-5 function better, helping air quality and reducing GHG transport emissions, it reconnects local streets, expands multimodal service and bike access, and includes a decking component that will reconnect a historically black neighborhood with other Portland economic centers. Why the change of mind? Don’t know specifics: FHWA writes that “changes made to the project after the FONSI was issued necessitate vacating that finding and conducting additional analysis to account for altered environmental impacts before proceeding.” A new NEPA decision may be required. Questions to FHWA’s listed contacts went unanswered as did outreach to Oregon DOT. Stay tuned.

*“Useful Climate Products and Services:” What? NOAA has an interesting – and confusing – document floating around out there – not in space, on the ground somewhere. It’s a draft “performance work statement” seeking “Support for NOAA’s Climate Intergovernmental Strategy and Foresight.” NOAA seeks a contractor to advise and lead on how the Agency should organize its own climate efforts and as it steps up to lead an intergovernmental climate effort. The contractor must “simultaneously and effectively understand user needs and continuously deliver the necessary products and services.” Exactly what those products and services might be is not spelled out in the draft. A primary focus, however, is on EO 14008, Section 211(d) and a Report required by that Section. That report must provide “ways to expand and improve climate forecast capabilities and information products for the public.” FEMA has prepared a 26 page report that advises how to write the EO Report that NOAA is apparently tasked with writing. FEMA writes that this should “include more in-depth engagement with local communities and underrepresented groups.” Scientifically, of course. Yikes! No wonder NOAA needs help. Not sure where this is headed. No replies (yet) from NOAA regarding the status of the draft performance work statement.

Tom Ewing “reply” or 513-379-5526 voice/text