Passenger Rail at a Glance, 2017

Upgrading aging systems, stations and fleets. Implementing positive train control and other technologies. Expanding rail lines. And figuring out how to pay for it all. Those are among the top challenges transit-rail agency leaders say they're facing this year, according to surveys they submitted to Progressive Railroading for the 2017 edition of "Passenger Rail at a Glance."

In many cases, the agencies' high-priority issues are the same as in previous years. However, one change I noticed in this year's survey responses is the level of confidence expressed by agency officials about the future of federal — and in a few cases, state — funding of public transportation. In 2016, transit-rail agency leaders were a bit more confident in their ability to plan for the longer term after Congress passed the five-year, $305 billion Fixing America's Surface Transportation (FAST) Act in late 2015.

So far in 2017, their confidence seems to have melted into apprehension after the Trump administration reaffirmed its fiscal-year 2018 budget proposal to phase out Capital Improvement Grants and eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program — despite Congress's rejection of those cuts in the FY17 appropriations bill.

To get a sense of what U.S. passenger-rail agencies are supporting in 2017, check out our latest passenger-rail guide in the October issue of Progressive Railroading. The listings are organized by state. You can find them by clicking on this link.

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