Time to Sharpen Pencils for New BIL Funding Rounds
February 2, 2024
By Rail Passengers Staff
With money now starting to flow from the historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s $66 billion in guaranteed appropriations beginning with last Fall’s $8.2 billion grant announcements, Federal Railroad Administrator Amit Bose this week urged state officials looking ahead to this year’s funding round to work hard to submit proposal well-anchored with broad support from all stakeholders.
This means not only carefully prepared proposals with clear objectives, but also proposals in which officials have already begun working with property owners, Class I railroad hosts, Amtrak, and others who will play key roles in whatever new service might be launched.
He also noted that a few proposals from states and localities which, diplomatically, he would not name were rejected because they contained basic errors such as applying to the wrong program, or using the wrong scope, or even filing the wrong application altogether.
Bose was the keynoter at this year’s Council on Rail Transportation, or CORT, meeting in Washington, D.C., organized by the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, or AASHTO.
Rail Passengers’ President and CEO Jim Mathews also spoke at the event, outlining legislative priorities such as late trains, Amtrak’s new fleet procurement, and working in Congress to prevent the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s transformative investments from being merely a one-off investment, just as we worked with key offices in 2021 to shape and pass the infrastructure law in the first place.
We’ve said for some time that the FRA’s Corridor ID program and Fed-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, or FSP for short, were designed to work together to create a steady pipeline of rail projects, a design that last year’s announcements made clear and which Administrator Bose confirmed.
Corridor ID is meant to cover the early stages of a rail project’s life cycle, paying for things like a service development plan or preliminary engineering and environmental reviews, while Fed-State will be targeted at projects that are in final development or are ready for construction. Administrator Bose noted that in future Fed-State funding rounds projects already in the project pipeline through the Corridor ID program will get priority for Fed-State National (as opposed to NEC) money.
Your Association’s professional staff began working with a few localities last year to support their applications for the first rounds of funding in these programs, and we stand ready to do it again. Between March and May this year, we can expect the FRA to make at least four Notice of Funding Opportunity, or NOFO, announcements kicking off the next funding round.
The next round of grants under the CRISI program – Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements – will open with an announcement in March for proposals to be received by mid-May. The Fiscal 2023-24 Corridor ID round will open in mid-May with proposals accepted through early August. The Fed-State Partnership-NEC round should open near the end of March and close just before the end of May, while the next National Network-focused Fed-State Partnership announcement can be expected by the end of September, closing in mid-December. Grant availability under the Restoration & Enhancement grants program should be announced in March and close in early June.
CRISI can be expected to announced awards at the end of this Fiscal Year, while the next Corridor ID round winners won’t be announced until near the end of this calendar year. The Fed-State NEC announcements should happen by the end of October, while September should see the winners announced the Restoration & Enhancement program.
This means the next big National Network funding announcement under the Fed-State Partnership program is unlikely until around April of 2025, a bit more than three months after whoever wins the November presidential elections is sworn in and takes office.
"On behalf of Amtrak’s onboard service staff, I want to thank the Rail Passengers Association for honoring their hard work with this award. The past couple years have indeed been difficult for Amtrak onboard service staff – coping with furloughs and job insecurity, adapting to changing protocols and services, not to mention the unfortunate events such as a tragic derailment and a fatal shooting. Nevertheless, our dedicated members at Amtrak have handled these hurdles with the care, attention and diligence for which they’re known. We thank Rail Passengers for their acknowledgement of our members’ hard work and, as always, look forward to seeing you on the rails."
Arthur Maratea, TCU/IAM National President
December 21, 2021, on the Association awarding its 2021 Golden Spike Award to the Frontline Amtrak Employees.