FRA Announces $368 Million in FY21 CRISI Rail Grants
June 3, 2022
Department of Transportation Announces $368 Million in Rail Grants to Improve Passenger Services and Strengthen Freight Supply Chains
The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced this week that it will be awarding $368 million in grants to 46 projects across 32 states and the District of Columbia, part of a broader effort to upgrade and modernize U.S. infrastructure. The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program targets improvements to both passenger and freight rail networks, funding projects that improve reliability, reduce congestion, and increase capacity.
"Americans deserve a world-class rail system that allows people and goods to get where they need to go more quickly and affordably, while reducing traffic and pollution on our roads," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "We're proud to award these grants to improve passenger rail for riders and strengthen the freight rail that makes our supply chains and our economy work."
Of the $368 million in total investments, approximately $154 million will go to 14 projects that directly benefit passenger rail corridors—on both existing and in-development services. The big winner was North Carolina, which received $57.9 million to complete preliminary engineering for the Raleigh to Richmond Corridor, including construction of a grade separation on the S-Line in Wake Forest. Other notable projects include a $15.9 million grant to Brightline to support its Phase III extension between Orlando and Tampa, and $13.9 to Connecticut for a new station in Enfield as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program.
“The Rail Passengers Association applauds the FRA for getting this critical funding to states and railroads in a timely fashion, where it will be put to use creating jobs and building a better U.S. rail network,” said Jim Mathews, President & CEO of Rail Passengers. “We applaud the FRA for selecting projects across the full spectrum of rail service—conventional and high-speed, rural and urban, passenger and freight. For any federal rail program to be successful, it is vital that it have a truly national scope, and that it benefit all Americans.”
You can see a full list of Fiscal Year 2021 CRISI grant awards here. Rail Passengers has excerpted the projects that will benefit passengers below.
Rural Awards: 21 projects (up to $184 million)
North Carolina – Raleigh to Richmond Corridor Infrastructure Engineering & Safety Program (Up to $57,900,000) North Carolina Department of Transportation
The proposed project will perform surveys and complete preliminary engineering (30% design) for Raleigh to Richmond (R2R) Corridor Program improvements between Raleigh, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia. Included in this project is the construction of a grade separation on the S-Line in Wake Forest, NC. The project will advance the next phase of the R2R corridor development, which will eventually result in new intercity passenger rail service on a state-owned route that will access currently underserved and minority rural communities with rail service, as well as improve travel times on the existing Amtrak Silver Meteor service. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for projects eligible under 49 U.S.C. § 22907(c)(2) that support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes, including alignments for existing routes. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for rural investment. North Carolina DOT, the Virginia DOT, and Amtrak will provide a 39 percent match.
New Jersey – Artificial Intelligence Aided Monitoring System for Railroad Trespassing Mitigation (Up to $582,859) Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
The proposed project will develop and demonstrate an artificial intelligence-based (AI) method to detect and assess trespassing incidents. Rutgers University, with the support of Amtrak, Louisiana DOT, and Dover and Rockaway River Railroad, will demonstrate this technology on five at-grade crossing areas in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Louisiana. This AI prototype was previously developed by Rutgers in partnership with the FRA, and the project will deploy an enhanced version to review trespassing trends, understand the effectiveness of applied solutions and bolster future trespass prevention initiatives. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for capital projects and engineering solutions targeting trespassing. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for rural investment. Rutgers, a University Transportation Center, and Amtrak will provide a 42 percent match.
Remaining Projects: 25 projects (up to $185 million)
California – Southern San José Grade Separations (Monterey Rd) (Up to $7,500,000) City of San Jose
This proposed project will fund preliminary engineering and environmental reviews necessary for grade separations at three existing at-grade crossings at Skyway Drive, Branham Lane, and Chynoweth Avenue in the City of San Jose, California. All three crossings, on Union Pacific track, are adjacent to intersections with Monterey Road, a high-fatality corridor, with over 33,000 vehicles daily, and have a recent history of fatality and injury crashes. This project will develop preliminary engineering and environmental clearance for a grade separation structure separating the three at-grade crossings, so that grade separation is ready to be built concurrently with the California High-Speed Rail Project through the project area. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for projects eligible under 49 U.S.C. § 22907(c)(2) that support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes, including alignments for existing routes. The City of San Jose will provide a 25 percent match.
California – Climate Change and Extreme Events Training and Research Program (Up to $4,666,011) San Jose State University Research Foundation
The proposed project will establish a Climate Change and Extreme Events Training and Research (CCEETR) program at San Jose State University. The program objective is to conduct research, education, and technology transfer activities to improve the rail network's safety and resilience against extreme events, including climate change. The applicant will focus on five projects directed at educating the railroad community and evaluating and demonstrating technologies and approaches that show promise for mitigating the consequences of extreme events on railroad operations: Application of emerging technologies to create evaluation and simulation scenarios for railroad personnel training; Creation and delivery of training programs that can be used by freight and passenger railroads to enhance their ability to develop response programs to enhance resiliency; Development of predictive assessment tools to support detection, alert, and warning systems planning, operations, response, and recovery from emergencies and disruptive events; Enhance technology transfer, career pathways, economic and workforce development for minority, small businesses, and underserved communities; and Evaluation and demonstration of sensors on mobile and fixed platforms to identify risks for the North American rail network. The San Jose State University, a University Transportation Center, and consortium partners will provide a 20 percent match.
California – Pacific Surfliner Bridge 257.2 Replacement Project (Up to $8,042,730) San Diego Association of Governments
The proposed project will replace the Pacific Surfliner Bridge 257.2 in San Diego County, California. The timber bridge, constructed in 1917, is located along a double-track segment of the Los Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) rail corridor. This project will replace the existing structure with a new concrete bridge constructed above the flood zone to ensure safe and efficient operations will continue without service interruptions from structural degradation or natural events. The project is expected to maintain safe conditions along the frequently-used railway and continue its economic vitality, as this corridor sees significant daily train traffic for intercity, freight, and commuter services. SANDAG and North County Transit District will provide a 42 percent match.
Colorado – South Downtown Railroad Underpass Reconstruction Project (Up to $2,500,000) Colorado Springs City Government
The proposed project will advance preliminary engineering and environmental review of three Union Pacific bridges at South Nevada Avenue, South Tejon Street, and Shooks Run, and realign a 1.5-mile segment of mainline track in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The project would significantly reduce the need for ongoing and increasingly significant repairs on aging bridges; prevent future unplanned outages, improve travel times, track safety, and reliability; and reduce trespassing incidents. The track segment is on a shared corridor with BNSF, and the existing bridges constrain planned expansions of the roadways and the development of bus rapid transit service. The City of Colorado Springs will provide a 34 percent match. [RPA note: we’re including this project as benefitting passengers because this underpass will play an important role in a future Front Range passenger rail corridor.]
Connecticut – Enfield Station and Track Improvements (Up to $13,860,000) Connecticut Department of Transportation
The proposed project will conduct environmental review, preliminary engineering, final design, and construction of a new station to accommodate increased service as part of the New Haven-Hartford-Springfield Rail Program and improve under bridge clearance in Enfield, Connecticut. Specific improvements will include a 500-ft level boarding platform, a utility building with waiting area, and station parking. Track and signal work are needed to support the platform, and the clearance will be improved by raising the bridge and lowering the road. Connecticut DOT will provide a 50 percent match, and the project also includes additional Federal funds from FTA.
District of Columbia – Mechanical Craft Workforce Development Apprenticeship Training Program (Up to $8,000,000) National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)
The proposed project is a three-year Mechanical Craft Workforce Development Apprenticeship Training Program that will provide significant professional development opportunities for current and future Amtrak employees. The pilot mechanical training program will begin in 2022 and the full training program of additional classes will be carried out from the end of 2022 to the end of Q3 2025. These trainings are to take place in six major Amtrak hubs: Los Angeles, CA, Chicago, IL, Beech Grove, IN, New York, NY, Wilmington, DE, and Washington DC. Amtrak is working in cooperation with its labor organizations to nurture a skilled mechanical workforce to maintain its fleet of equipment. This new program will help address Amtrak’s attrition problem, and this program will preserve work experience by training new employees and retaining existing employees through re-training. Amtrak will provide a 20 percent non-Federal match.
Delaware – Development and Implementation of HBCU Based Railroad Engineering Program for Underrepresented Communities (Up to $4,592,637) University of Delaware
The proposed project will develop and implement a railroad engineering program at Morgan State University (MSU), a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) in Baltimore, MD. The new program would be modeled after the University of Delaware’s railroad engineering program, with the goal of an active undergraduate and graduate railroad concentration under the Transportation Engineering degree program underway within the grant’s anticipated four-year period of performance. The program will also look to engage high school students in the study of railroad engineering with MSU’s current internship program, and seeks to expand similar programs at other HBCUs nationwide through the development of procedures and a program template. The University of Delaware, a University Transportation Center, will provide a 20 percent match.
Florida – Tampa to Orlando High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Project (Up to $15,875,000) Brightline Trains Florida, LLC
The proposed project will advance preliminary engineering activities to support Phase III of the Brightline system, a 67-mile extension from Orlando to Tampa mostly within the right-of-way of I-4 in Central Florida. Brightline currently operates from Miami to West Palm Beach (Phase I) and the West Palm Beach to Orlando segment (Phase II) is currently under construction. The full build out of the Phase III extension would provide an alternative for travelers on an overburdened state highway system and is projected to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled along I-4. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for projects eligible under 49 U.S.C. § 22907(c)(2) that support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes, including alignments for existing routes. Brightline, a privately-owned intercity passenger service provider, will provide a 50 percent match.
Massachusetts – Springfield Area Track Reconfiguration Project (Up to $1,750,000) Massachusetts Department of Transportation
The proposed project will develop preliminary engineering and environmental clearance for track, signal, and infrastructure improvements around Springfield Union Station in Springfield, Massachusetts. These improvements would include additional platforms, additional crossover tracks, storage tracks, a new layover facility, and other work that will support the Amtrak Springfield Line, the CSX Boston Albany Line, and small segments of the former Armory Branch and Knowledge Corridor. The project will improve operational efficiency, reduce travel times, improve passenger accessibility for intercity passenger rail services, and reduce freight and passenger rail conflicts on corridors in the Springfield area. Massachusetts DOT will provide a 50 percent match.
Virginia – Ettrick Station Improvements (Up to $6,355,829) Virginia Passenger Rail Authority
The proposed project will make improvements to the station located in the Village of Ettrick, within Chesterfield County, Virginia. The project will make improvements to the existing station building and infrastructure and construct a new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant 850-foot long platform. These collective improvements were designed to accommodate the future installation of a third track to accommodate the extension of the Southeast Corridor from Richmond to Raleigh. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for projects eligible under 49 U.S.C. § 22907(c)(2) that support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes including alignments for existing routes. The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority will provide a 40 percent match.
Washington – Pierce County Rail Capacity and Reliability Improvement Project (Up to $10,000,000) Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority
The proposed project will complete preliminary engineering and environmental review for track and signal improvements to increase passenger and freight rail capacity, including double-tracking and other track and signal improvements, in the Pacific Northwest High Speed Rail Corridor between Tacoma, Lakewood, and DuPont, Washington. The project is located along a 12-mile corridor in southern Puget Sound in Pierce County, Washington, and the three segments to be double-tracked are TR Junction to Portland Avenue, South 66th Street Bridge to Pine Street, and Lakewood to DuPont. These improvements are envisioned to accommodate planned additional daily Amtrak Cascades trains by 2040, a reduction in the average 30-minute delays on Sounder Commuter Rail, and increased service reliability and on-time performance for freight and passenger trains through additional capacity that will reduce conflict on congested track. The applicant will provide a 50 percent match.
Washington-Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor Reliability - Landslide Mitigation Phase IV Project (up to $3,837,000) Washington State Department of Transportation
The proposed project will reduce landslide blocking events by installing catchment walls along BNSF’s Scenic Subdivision at three locations between Seattle and Everett, Washington. In addition to constructing catchment walls to reduce the risk of slide debris reaching the tracks, the project also improves the existing slide fence alert system that notifies dispatchers and train crews of possible track intrusion and improves drainage along the track. The project addresses landslide hazards at these locations and builds on prior investments to enhance the safety, reliability, and predictability of passenger rail service on the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor. Washington DOT and BNSF will provide a 50 percent match.
"I’m so proud that we came together in bipartisan fashion in the Senate to keep the Southwest Chief chugging along, and I’m grateful for this recognition from the Rail Passengers Association. This victory is a testament to what we can accomplish when we reach across the aisle and work together to advance our common interests."
Senator Tom Udall (D-NM)
April 2, 2019, on receiving the Association's Golden Spike Award for his work to protect the Southwest Chief