US DOT Awards $1.4B in Grants to Rail Infrastructure Projects

Continuing the wave of funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has awarded more than $1.4 billion for 70 passenger and freight rail projects in 35 states and the District of Columbia, including upgrades to bridges, track and grade crossings.

The grants, which DOT’s Federal Railroad Administration announced on Sept. 25, come from the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements, or CRISI, program. 

Mitch Landrieu, White House senior adviser and infrastructure implementation coordinator, said in a Sept. 22 press call, “These projects have the power to transform communities from across the country by getting both people and goods where they need to go more quickly and conveniently, increasing community safety through track improvements and fewer highway-rail grade crossings.”

Landrieu said the grants also would bolster rail infrastructure against severe weather and the effects of climate change.

The CRISI program pre-dates the November 2021 signing of the IIJA, but the $1.2-trillion infrastructure law provides the program with an infusion of $5 billion over five years. 

DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the briefing that the $1.4 billion for the new round of grants represents a fourfold increase from the pre-IIJA levels. “And there’s a lot more coming very soon,” he added.

Largest Grants Set for Calif.. Amtrak, Mass., Va., Wash.

The largest grant is up to $211.6 million to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, for design and construction of upgrades to six grade crossings in the Central Valley. 

The second-biggest grant is a $178.4-million award to Amtrak for track, signal, grade crossings and station upgrades to add two new daily round trips between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala.

Other large awards include $108.1 million to the Massachusetts DOT to advance final design design and early construction for track, signal, grade crossings and bridge improvements to the Inland Route project between Boston and western Massachusetts.

The Virginia Passenger Rail Authority is receiving $100 million for final design and construction for a new flyover rail bridge on the corridor between Richmond and Washington, D.C.

The Washington State DOT was awarded $72.8 million for final design and construction for track, grade crossings and other infrastructure improvements in eastern Washington.

FRA Received $6B in Applications

As with other DOT competitive grant programs, demand for the dollars far outpaced the amount available. FRA Administrator Amit Bose said his agency received 234 eligible applications, seeking more than $6.1 billion worth of funding. 

Buttigieg said, “It is about a five-to-one ratio between the dollars requested and the dollars we could give out.”

He said, “Thanks to the infrastructure law, we were able to say ‘yes’ more times than ever because this is such a robust increase in funding for what is clearly an in-demand program.”