DOT Announces $321 Million in CRISI Rail Grants

On September 23, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the selectees for grants from the fiscal 2020 appropriation for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. The full list of selectees is here.

“This $320.6 million federal investment will upgrade U.S. rail infrastructure and enhance rail safety in communities across America,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao.

Of the total $320.6 million appropriation ($2.6 million of which is unused carryover funding from fiscal year 2018), 77 percent ($245.4 million) goes to projects in rural areas, far exceeding the 25 percent rural minimum in the CRISI authorizing statute.

However, the Federal Railroad Administration appears to be drawing a distinction between the project selected with the $45.0 million set-aside in the 2020 appropriations act for “that require the acquisition of rights-of-way, track, or track structure to support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes…” Setting aside that project (which got $47.6 million – the $45.0 million 2020 set-aside and the $2.6 million 2018 carryover), rural projects got 62 percent of the total grant funding announced this week, more in line with the “over 60 percent” alluded to in the press release.

That $47.6 million project for new service to purchase right-of-way from CSX along its S-line corridor between Ridgeway, North Carolina and Petersburg, Virginia, towards the eventual completion of a new direct, state-supported Richmond-to-Raleigh passenger rail line.

Other major projects in this year’s grants include:

  • $31.8 million for the Wisconsin DOT to upgrade the Soo Line communication and signaling and extend sidings so that Amtrak can add an additional Hiawatha round-trip each day between Milwaukee and Chicago.
  • $16.9 million to Pan Am (seriously – a Class II in New England bought the old airline’s name and logo) to upgrade the track and bridges between Waterville and Mattawamkeag (in Maine) so that speeds and car weights can be increased.
  • $16.4 million so that Boca Raton, Florida can build a Brightline station and attached parking garage.
  • $15.6 million to the Michigan DOT to eliminate trespassing hotspots between Dearborn and Kalamazoo. (Reducing fatalities by reducing trespassing has been a top priority of AAR’s government relations work for the last couple of years, and it shows in the pattern of federal grants.)
  • $13.7 million to upgrade the Buckingham Branch Railroad’s line between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge, Virginia.

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