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State rail programming and planning have matured greatly in the past three decades. State and local governments responded to widespread rail line abandonment in the 1970s by attempting to preserve local rail services and corridors through the adoption of rail freight assistance programs. States also sought to preserve existing passenger rail services by subscribing to Amtrak's 403(b) program. This program allows states to negotiate and contract with Amtrak to supplement existing service and build inter-city rail service along vital transportation corridors.
Prosperity in the mid-1980s changed the nature of state rail programs. States ventured into a variety of activities involving freight and passenger rail programs, grade-crossing safety, right-of-way acquisition and rail banking, high speed rail planning, and intermodal connectivity at seaports, river ports, and truck-rail terminals. Moreover, some states appropriated new financing to establish stable funding sources for the rail mode. The salient features of the 1990s have been the virtual disappearance of federal rail assistance and the tailoring of state rail programs to states' individual needs.
The purpose of this report is to provide an in-depth look at four diverse, yet exemplary, state rail programs: California, Florida, North Carolina, and Washington State. The report examines the evolution, characteristics, management, costs, funding sources and benefits of each program in detail. It also discusses lessons from these state rail programs that might benefit the State of Texas in the event that Texas considers more active participation in state rail programming. Detailed appendixes contain considerable documentation of state statutes, funding histories, program descriptions, feasibility studies, Amtrak 403(b) contracts, and similar source material.
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