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Utah close to achieving rail safety certification needed to avoid loss of nearly $150M in federal funding

Published June 20, 2017 10:11 pm

Utah among few progressing well; feds worry that many others are in danger of losing funding.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Utah is farther down the track than most states toward gaining newly required federal certification for state transit rail-line inspection programs — which is needed within two years to prevent a halt of federal funding for public transit.

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) issued a status update Monday as it prodded states to speed up their efforts and avoid losing funds.

Utah is among seven states — out of 30 with transit rail lines — that are closest to gaining the newly required certification.

The FTA said the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has submitted all required documents and is working with federal officials to address comments and questions. That is the final step before actual certification. The FTA noted that it provided $148 million in transit funding to Utah in 2016, as an example of what the state could risk losing if it does not achieve final certification.

UDOT oversees safety inspection programs for the Utah Transit Authority, the only transit agency in the state with rail programs — others around the state use only buses. UTA offers FrontRunner commuter rail, TRAX light rail and streetcar lines.

Federal regulations require inspections by agencies that are financially and legally independent from the rail transit agencies that they oversee. They must demonstrate they have the authority, resources and expertise necessary to oversee rail-transit safety.

Last year, Congress ordered states to develop FTA-certified State Safety Oversight programs by April 15, 2019, or lose funds. The FTA said 11 of the 30 states with rail transit have yet to submit applications to start their process toward certification.

FTA Executive Director Matthew Welbes warned that the 2019 deadline "cannot be waived or extended, and the FTA cannot obligate federal transit funds to transit agencies within the state without a certified [State Safety Oversight] program after that date."






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