(or: RSPA to RITA, OPS to FRPA, PDQ!)
The Secretary of the Department of Transportation intends to reorganize the Research and Special Programs Administration (RSPA). RSPA currently houses several functions that relate to operations (such as the Office of Pipeline Safety), and bear little relation to the basic research functions of that Administration. Similarly, several of the important research and analytical capabilities that could better support RSPA’s research programs are fragmented in other parts of the Department. The reorganization will transform the existing RSPA into a new organization within the Department, to be designated as the Research and Innovative Technology Administration or (RITA).
Meanwhile, the Office of Pipeline Safety will move from RSPA to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which would be renamed the Federal Railroad and Pipeline Administration (FRPA). There are three main reasons for this new alignment:
- Rail and pipelines are fixed transportation structures, and in some cases, they share the same rights of way.
- The pipeline system looks and operates more like the rail system than any other mode of transportation.
- Both FRA and the Office of Pipeline Safety focus on safety regulation, enforcement and penalty collection issues. The ability of the Office of Pipeline Safety to perform those functions will be improved by placing its program within an Administration with long experience in those areas.
The initial steps toward rolling out this proposal are being taken, but a great deal has yet to be done. The Secretary would like to begin operating under the new plan no later than early next fiscal year.