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Highlights

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak) and commuter rail agencies often share rights-of-way with each other and with freight railroads. Negotiating agreements that govern the shared use of infrastructure can be challenging, especially on issues such as liability and indemnity. As requested, this report discusses (1) the liability and indemnity provisions in agreements among passenger and freight railroads, and the resulting implications of these provisions; (2) federal and state court opinions and Surface Transportation Board (STB) decisions related to contractual liability and indemnity provisions of passenger and freight railroad agreements; (3) factors that influence the negotiations of liability and indemnity provisions among passenger and freight railroads; and (4) potential options for facilitating negotiations of liability and indemnity provisions. GAO obtained information from all existing and proposed commuter rail agencies, Amtrak, and major freight railroads through site visits or telephone interviews. GAO analyzed the liability and indemnity provisions in agreements between commuter rail agencies, Amtrak, and freight railroads. GAO also reviewed federal and state laws, STB decisions, and court cases related to liability and indemnity provisions. The Department of Transportation and STB had no comments on the report. Amtrak provided technical comments, which we incorporated where appropriate. GAO is not making recommendations in this report.

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