DOT Announces $272M in Rail State of Good Repair Grants

On August 21, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the ten recipients of the first round of Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair railroad grants, totaling $272 million.

“This Administration is committed to investing in the enhancement and safe operation of our country’s passenger rail networks,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

The SOGR program was established by section 11302 of the FAST Act of 2015, but that law was enacted too late to be reflected in the FY 2016 appropriations process. In 2017, the appropriators were still working under tight budget ceilings and only gave $25 million to the program, so it was not high on DOT’s to-do list. Then, once the budget ceilings were lifted substantially, the 2018 appropriations act gave another $250 million, so the 2017 and 2018 appropriations were combined into a single grant solicitation.

FY 2017 Appropriation $25,000,000
FY 2018 Appropriation $250,000,000
Subtotal $275,000,000
Minus 1% Oversight Set-Aside -$2,750,000
Remainder for Grants $272,250,000

Eligible program costs are the repair, replacement, or rehabilitation of publicly or Amtrak-owned or controlled railroad equipment, infrastructure and facilities. Under the law, the maximum federal share of a project cost is 80 percent, but the law also directs the Secretary to “give preference to eligible projects for which…the proposed Federal share of total project costs does not exceed 50 percent.” The project-by-project federal share data was not available at press time, but DOT says that in the aggregate, the $272 million in federal grants is matched by “more than $190 million” in non-federal funds, which would put the aggregate federal share at around 59 percent for this round of projects.

The ten grant awardees are listed below (more information on each grant can be found here).

IL Metra $17,840,000
LA New Orleans Union Station $3,700,854
MA Boston South Station $41,183,845
MI Kalamazoo-Dearborn SOGR $23,335,165
NC Piedmont Intercity $76,888,000
NJ Newark Penn Station $18,445,000
PA Keystone/NEC Junction $15,140,236
RI Providence Station $12,500,000
WA Cascades Talgo Replacement $37,500,000
WI Hiawatha Car Replacement $25,716,900
TOTAL $272,250,000

The legislative history of this program, and the likely intent of its sponsor, Cory Booker (D-NJ), indicates that the Northeast Corridor was a focus, since that’s where almost all the Amtrak-owned track and stations are. Only $72.1 million (26 percent) of the funding in this round went to projects on the Northeast Corridor.

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