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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

State Rail Plan Guidance

About this Guidance

Under 49 U.S. Code Chapter 227, each State, at its own election, may prepare and maintain a State rail plan as a means for:

  • Setting forth State policy involving freight and passenger rail transportation, including commuter rail operations, in the State
  • Establishing the period covered by the State rail plan
  • Presenting priorities and strategies to enhance rail service in the State that benefits the public
  • Serving as the basis for Federal and State rail investments within the State

While there is no Federal statutory requirement that each State prepare a State rail plan, 49 U.S. Code Chapter 227 encourages each State to develop an FRA-accepted State rail plan in support of the State’s involvement in rail policy, planning, and development. To aid States in preparing such plans, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued final State Rail Plan Guidance on September 17, 2013. The guidance explains the process to be followed in developing State rail plans, including minimum content requirements, a standardized format, and FRA’s review and acceptance process.

Section 11315 of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015 (FAST Act) made subsequent changes to State rail plan requirements, including specifying that a State-approved rail plan be submitted every four years for acceptance by FRA, rather than the five years specified under the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA). There is no set schedule for States to submit rail plans to FRA for review and acceptance because the preparation and maintenance of a State rail plan is at the discretion of each State, and if a State rail plan exists, four-year update cycles vary. 

Additionally, rail projects are not required to be included in State rail plans in order to be eligible for Federal funding under the competitive discretionary grant programs authorized by the FAST Act. Please refer to eligibility requirements on our Grants and Loans page for specific eligibility criteria for each grant program.

For More Information

 For questions about State Rail Plan Guidance, please contact:

Document Links

List of State Rail Plans as made available on each State Department of Transportation Website

Last updated: Monday, August 30, 2021