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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces More Than $56 Million in Grants to Improve Rail Safety, Efficiency, and Reliability

Friday, February 8, 2019

U.S. Department of Transportation Announces More Than $56 Million in Grants to Improve Rail Safety, Efficiency, and Reliability
18 projects in 16 states receive funding

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) today announced $56,933,567 in grant funding for 18 projects in 16 states.  The funding will improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail systems under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program.

“These funds will help repair and upgrade rail infrastructure that will increase safety and service,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

CRISI grants invest in rail infrastructure.  The Department’s Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) reserved at least 25 percent of the awards for rural projects.  The 2017 Appropriations Act required $10 million for projects that contribute to the restoration or initiation of intercity passenger rail service.

“We’re extremely pleased that the CRISI grant program directs much-needed critical investment to rural America,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. 

FRA considered several criteria as stated in the NOFO when selecting projects.  These included key Departmental objectives such as: supporting economic vitality; leveraging federal funds to attract other sources of funding; preparing for project life-cycle costs; using innovative approaches to improve safety and expedite project delivery; and holding recipients accountable for achieving specific, measurable outcomes.

The list of awards follows:

Restoration and Initiation Projects ($10 million required):

North Carolina – Millbrook Road Grade Separation Sealed Corridor Project

(Up to $10,000,000)

State of North Carolina Department of Transportation

The proposed project combines three grade separations on the CSX S line north of Raleigh, N.C.  Two of the grade separations are primarily being funded by the state, and the third at Millbrook Road would be advanced by the CRISI grant.  These improvements will be the first construction projects on the planned Raleigh to Richmond section of the Southeast Corridor Sealed Corridor, and will directly improve the safety and reliability of both highway and rail transportation.  The project will alleviate highway traffic delays of just under a minute per vehicle from a growing population and accommodate projected travel demand along with planned highway improvements.

Rural Projects:

Arkansas – ARDOT On-System Grade Crossing Approach Improvements

(Up to $685,600)

Arkansas Department of Transportation

The proposed project will improve the signage and pavement markings at 298 at-grade highway-railway crossings on state and U.S. routes in Arkansas.  The proposed project is expected to improve safety at 298 at-grade highway-railway crossings for motorists and could result in a reduction of $1.8 million per year in costs associated with highway-rail grade crossing crashes. 

Georgia – Heart of Georgia Railroad Upgrade Project

(Up to $2,027,192)

Georgia Department of Transportation

The proposed project will upgrade the state-owned Heart of Georgia Class III railroad corridor, which extends for 138 miles connecting Central Georgia with the Cordele Inland Port at I-75 and the Port of Savannah.  The project includes the upgrade of the route to FRA Class-II standards, enabling an increase in speed to 25 miles per hour.  Specifically, the project will replace 3,200 crossties, place 2,000 tons of ballast across five miles of track, and repair bridge stringers and substructures on 45 bridges across the line.  The improvements will mitigate 8.6 miles of slow orders to reduce travel time by 90 minutes from the current 12-hour trip across the route, increasing the efficiency, reliability, and capacity of freight rail service to industries and agricultural businesses in an economically stressed region in Central Georgia.   

Iowa – Booneville Bridge Project

(Up to $3,470,500)

Iowa Interstate Railroad LTD

The proposed project will replace the 118-year old Booneville Bridge over the Raccoon River, located approximately 15 miles west of Des Moines.  The bridge carries over 42,000 carloads per year on the Class II Iowa Interstate Railroad’s (IAIS) Council Bluffs, Iowa, to Chicago, Ill., service.  The bridge will need to be put out of service in the near future under current conditions, which would result in costly and inefficient rerouting of traffic and economic disruption in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and points beyond.  The new bridge will be able to withstand increasingly common flooding events and resist bridge scour.

Missouri – MoDOT Rail Corridor Consolidation and At-Grade Crossing Safety Improvement Project

(Up to $2,585,080)

Missouri Department of Transportation 

The proposed project will implement a grade crossing consolidation plan and other grade crossing improvements along a 19-mile segment in southwest Missouri.  Five crossings will be closed and nine additional crossings will receive safety improvements, including active warning devices and gates, vertical and horizontal geometric improvements, adjacent roadway intersections, crossing surfaces, accessible sidewalks, pavement marking, security fencing, and drainage.  

New York – Hudson Line Bridge Decks Replacements

(Up to $6,363,000)

New York State Department of Transportation

The proposed project will replace timber bridge decks with ballast decks on three bridges on the Hudson Line in Dutchess and Columbia Counties, N.Y.  The project will bring the bridges into a state of good repair, eliminate current speed restrictions, accommodate future speed increases to 110 miles per hour, and reduce maintenance costs.  This section of the Hudson Line hosts 26 Amtrak trains per day, as well as freight service.   

South Dakota – South Dakota West River Rail Improvement Project

(Up to $978,200)

South Dakota Department of Transportation

The proposed project will replace 2.5 miles of 100-year old, 100 lb. rail with modern 115 lb. continuous welded rail on the Class II Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern (RCP&E) railroad near Wall, S.D.  Current track conditions require eastbound trains to slow from 25 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour as they enter steeper gradient.  The project will alleviate a chokepoint on the RCP&E and reduce costs and improve operating efficiency by allowing longer trains to travel on this section of track.  

Texas – Borger Texas Chemical Hazard Elimination Safety and Security Improvement
(Up to $2,164,255)

City of Borger

The proposed project will decrease derailment risk on the Class III Panhandle Northern Railroad (PNR) by installing 13,682 new railroad ties and 13,415 tons of ballast.  The PNR connects the BNSF mainline with the largest inland chemical and refinery complex in the U.S.  The project will improve safety on a line that transports more than 20,000 carloads of hazardous materials annually. 

Vermont – Vermonter Amtrak Safety Project for Passenger and Freight Rail Service
(Up to $2,082,519)

Vermont Agency of Transportation

The proposed project will construct slope stabilization measures along an 80-mile section of the New England Central Railroad (NECR) in Vermont.  Specifically, the project includes remediation of identified slope and rock stability risks, culvert repairs, and implementation of advanced rockfall detection warning systems.  In addition to safety improvements, the project will eliminate slow orders that have resulted in 216 hours of annual passenger delays and 520 hours of annual freight delays.

Other Projects:

Florida – South Florida East Coast Rail Corridor Intrusion Prevention Project

(Up to $2,373,441)

Brightline Trains LLC

The proposed project will install supplemental safety features at 48 grade crossings from West Palm Beach to Miami.  The project includes installing delineators at 11 crossings, exit gates at nine crossings, and active signs at 28 crossings.  The proposed improvements are being installed to reduce the frequency of grade crossing violations by keeping motorists and pedestrians from trespassing the railroad corridor when trains approach.

Illinois – Lenox Interlocking Reconfiguration Project in the Village of Mitchell, Madison County

(Up to $5,083,719)

Illinois Department of Transportation

The proposed project will reconfigure the Lenox Interlocking, located in Mitchell, Ill., approximately 16 miles northeast of St. Louis, to increase speeds and operational flexibility for both passenger and freight services.  Four rail lines intersect at the location, with six railroads operating approximately 46 daily trains over the interlocking, which is a critical gateway into St. Louis.  The project is estimated to reduce Amtrak trip times by three minutes, reduce freight train delays by more than two hours per day, and reduce gate downtime at a nearby grade crossing by two hours per day.

Mississippi – All Aboard the Safety Train

(Up to $58,800)

City of Gulfport

The proposed project will complete preliminary engineering and NEPA to upgrade a grade crossing in Gulfport, Miss., with a four-quadrant gate system.  The project will also install a concrete median and a separate pedestrian gate.  The CSX rail line runs parallel to 15th Street, and the grade crossing is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 49.  This intersection has a traffic volume of nearly 50,000 vehicles per day, with an average of 23 freight trains.  The new four-quadrant gate and concrete median will prevent drivers from pulling around the existing gates when they are lowered.

Missouri – Replacement of MacArthur Bridge Truss over Broadway

(Up to $7,170,346)

Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis

The proposed project will replace the Broadway Truss component of the Class III Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis’s (TRRA) MacArthur Bridge, which connects St. Louis, Mo., and East St. Louis, Ill., over the Mississippi River.  The current structure is over 100 years old and projected to go out of service within 15 years due to fatigue.  The project will replace the West Approach truss over South Broadway with deck plate girders and increase the horizontal clearance to 15 feet.  In addition to the state of good repair benefits, the widening of the horizontal clearance will avoid the diversion of over dimensional loads over a 317-mile reroute and prepare the bridge to accommodate heavier railcars in the future.  The MacArthur Bridge is the second longest railroad bridge in the country.

Oregon – Peninsula Junction Passenger and Freight Rail Improvements

(Up to $1,305,915)

Oregon Department of Transportation

The proposed project is the final component of a multiphase project to increase speeds and alleviate congestion as trains merge onto and off the BNSF mainline at two junctions in Portland, Ore.  This project will replace and upgrade two switches and realign track curvature to allow trains to maintain a constant 30 miles per hour through both the North Portland and Peninsula junctions.  Forty-one trains, including 12 Amtrak trains, pass through these junctions every day. Congestion on the Union Pacific and BNSF tracks currently causes over seven hours of delay per day to Amtrak and freight operations. 

Rhode Island – Quonset Freight Rail Enhancements and Expansion (Q-FREE) for Mill Creek Railyard

(Up to $3,000,000)

Quonset Development Corporation 

The proposed project will expand freight rail operations at the publicly chartered Quonset Development Corporation’s Quonset Business Park in North Kingston, R.I.  The project includes constructing 5,700 feet of sidings to accommodate storage for up to 58 rail cars at the Mill Creek Railyard.  The park houses 200 businesses and 12,000 employees, and rail operations within the park have nearly tripled in the last decade.  The project will improve operating efficiencies and meet increasing demand. 

Washington – Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor Reliability – Landslide Mitigation Phase II (Up to $2,035,000)

Washington State Department of Transportation

The proposed project will construct landslide mitigation measures at two locations along the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor in the city of Mukilteo, Wash., approximately 26 miles north of Seattle.  Specifically, the project will install fencing that will automatically trigger speed restrictions when a landslide is detected, as well as catchment walls and drainage improvements to help prevent landslides from reaching the tracks.  The project locations have experienced 13 landslides in the last nine years.  Each time a landslide covers tracks near coastal bluffs, passenger train service is suspended for 48 hours.  Between 2010 and spring 2018, there have been more than 816 hours of passenger train service disruptions, or annulments, between Mile Post 26 and 27.  The project will improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of Amtrak Cascades and long-distance services, Sound Transit commuter rail, and BNSF freight traffic.

Washington – Washington State Service Development Plan (Pre-NEPA)

(Up to $500,000)

Washington State Department of Transportation

The proposed project will conduct service planning to develop an initial range of reasonable alternatives for potential infrastructure investments to improve the reliability, safety, and competitiveness of intercity passenger rail service along the Washington State segment of the Pacific Northwest Rail Corridor between Vancouver, B.C. and Portland, Ore.  The BNSF-owned corridor hosts Amtrak Cascades and long-distance services, Sound Transit commuter rail, and BNSF freight traffic. 

Wisconsin – Milwaukee Airport Rail Station Second Platform Project

(Up to $5,050,000)

Wisconsin Department of Transportation

The proposed project will construct a second platform at the Milwaukee Airport Rail Station, as well as elevator towers and an overhead pedestrian bridge to connect the new platform to the station.  The station’s existing, single platform configuration forces both eastbound and westbound Amtrak trains to use the eastern main track to serve passengers, rather than using both tracks, which results in congestion for both passenger and CP freight trains.  The new platform will improve fluidity in the corridor by enabling trains to operate on both main tracks and meet in a 10.7-mile segment of track surrounding the station, which will improve schedule flexibility and reliability.  The project will also improve safety and access for passengers with disabilities by eliminating the use of an emergency platform.