Iowa Rail

Regulatory Jurisdiction Over Railroads

Surface Transportation Board (STB)

Surface Transportation Board

The Surface Transportation Board (STB) is a regulatory agency that Congress charged with the fundamental missions of resolving railroad rate and service disputes. The STB is an independent agency, although it is administratively affiliated with the U.S. Department of Transportation. It was created in the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act of 1995 and is the successor agency to the Interstate Commerce Commission.

The agency has jurisdiction over:

  • Railroad rate and service issues.
  • Rail restructuring transactions such as mergers, rail line sales, new line construction, and rail abandonment.
  • Use of rail lines for recreational trails.

For more information see the Surface Transportation Board's Web site.

Federal Railroad Administration (FRA)

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FRA formulates and enforces rail safety regulations. For the most part, all railroad operational procedures are subject to FRA regulations, including highway-railroad crossing signals, train speeds, train horn use, track condition, etc.

Iowa is in FRA's Region 6 and this office may be reached at 816-329-3840.

For more information see the Federal Railroad Administration's Web site.

Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT)

The Iowa DOT has minimal regulatory jurisdiction over rail operations or service. The department does participate in the STB abandonment process, as needed, as well as making our voice heard relative to both STB and FRA rule making. Generally, complaints about railroads are either resolved with coordination and assistance from the Iowa DOT or through a formal contested case process involving the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Though regulatory authority is limited, the Iowa DOT's Rail Transportation Bureau will guide those with concerns to the appropriate agency or railroad representative.

Recently approved Code of Iowa section and Iowa Admin. Code

Iowa Code 327F.13 required the department to adopt rules concerning close-clearance warning signs along railroad tracks where the clearance between the tracks and an obstruction along the tracks physically impedes a person who is lawfully riding on the side of a train from clearing the obstruction. Effective Nov. 11, 2009.


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