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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

Technical Capacity

Title:  Chief Operating Officer

Phase(s):  Preliminary Engineering through Revenue Service 

Category:  Project Management

Date:  April 21, 2009

1. Background

Grantees that are developing either new rail commuter projects or other rail transit projects which will interface with railroads can benefit from the early appointment of an experienced railroad manager to interface with the railroads and with the safety oversight agencies. 

During the risk workshop at the Pre-PE review, the PMOC identified a significant risk to the project if it proceeded into the next phase without staff versed with technical knowledge of rail operations.  One of the primary recommendations was that Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) retain the services of an experienced railroad manager as Chief Operating Officer (COO) to provide operational input for planning and design activities, to develop an operational plan for the construction phase, to coordinate with the other railroad operators (CSXT, Amtrak), and to develop a plan to meet the Federal Rules & Regulations administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). 

The CFCRT project will first purchase a segment of line from a railroad.  FDOT will become responsible for maintenance of the right-of-way and all fixed facilities on this line segment including track, bridges, and signal systems.  All of these systems are governed by FRA regulations; two freight railroads and Amtrak will continue to operate on the line segment.

The PMOC’s recommendation was accepted and a COO was retained.  The result is that FDOT has prepared a plan for assuming operations and maintenance of the corridor once ownership is transferred from CSXT to FDOT.  In addition, the COO has identified design issues that will affect future operations, developed operating agreements with other carriers, and has established a working relationship with regional FRA staff.

2. The Lesson

FDOT is developing the CFCRT project as the FTA Grantee.  FDOT does not have experience as a railroad operating authority.  The PMOC recognized the grantee had an organizational weakness when the PMP review was performed.  During the risk workshop, it was determined that this lack of expertise represented a project risk.  The PMOC recommended that FDOT retain an experienced railroad manager as COO for the Project.  FDOT advertised for these services among their General Engineering Consultants.  A firm was selected to provide the service and an individual was seconded to support FDOT.

Some of the tangible results of this action are:

  • Operating rules were developed in a timely manner for the FDOT line segment in coordination with the railroads to be consistent with the railroad’s operating rules.  This will enhance safety by reducing confusion and FRA is in agreement with this approach.
  • Protocols for dispatcher hand-over of trains between the CSXT and FDOT line segments were developed.  This required a modification to the signal layout at the ends of the line segment; but since the design was at a PE stage of development, the change did not result in a cost or schedule impact.
  • The COO was available to have input to the Rail Fleet Management Plan and on rail vehicle procurement to represent the needs of the future operating management.
  • FRA regional staff is being apprised of all activities on the project which impact safety or are subject to FRA regulations.

3. Applicability

The appointment of a Chief Operating Officer is applicable to all Grantees that seek to operate rail commuter services or light rail transit on shared trackage (temporal separation) with freight railroad operations.  Other projects which have extensive interface with railroads may also benefit from this type of expertise.  Unless the Grantee is a rail commuter operating entity  and already has a COO as part of its organization, this position would be part of the Grantee’s Project Development organization and the responsibilities of the COO continue through the start of revenue service on the transit line.

4. References

Ms. Tawny Olore, PE
Project Manager
FDOT – Orlando Urban Office
133 S. Semoran Blvd.
Orlando, FL  32807
(407) 482-7879