Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act

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The Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act of 1976, often called the "4R Act," is a United States federal law that established the basic outlines of regulatory reform in the railroad industry and provided transitional operating funds following the 1970 bankruptcy of Penn Central Transportation Company.[1] The law approved the "Final System Plan" for the newly-created Conrail and authorized acquisition of Northeast Corridor tracks and facilities by Amtrak.

The Act was the first in a series of laws which collectively are described as the deregulation of transportation in the United States. It was followed by the Airline Deregulation Act (1978), Staggers Rail Act (1980), and the Motor Carrier Act of 1980.



Following the massive bankruptcy of the Penn Central in 1970, Congress created Amtrak to take over the failed company's intercity passenger train service, under the Rail Passenger Service Act.[2] Congress passed the Regional Rail Reorganization Act of 1973 (the "3R Act") to salvage viable freight operations from Penn Central and other failing rail lines in the northeast, mid-Atlantic and midwestern regions, through the creation of ConRail. ConRail began operations in 1976.[3]:5

Overview of law

The 4R Act:

  • implemented the ConRail "Final System Plan," as formulated by the United States Railway Association, and which specified the rail lines that Conrail would receive
  • provided operating funds for ConRail, which had not received direct federal funds under the 3R Act. Initial funding for 1976 was $484 million (in 1986 dollars)[3]:6
  • authorized Amtrak to acquire rights of way, tracks, and related facilities (such as train stations) for the Northeast Corridor (NEC) rail line between Washington, D.C. and Boston
  • provided initial funds to Amtrak of approximately $85.2 million for the NEC acquisition.[4]
  • significantly reduced federal regulation of railroads for the first time since passage of the 1887 Interstate Commerce Act.[3]:5

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