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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

Improving Rail in Rural Communities

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is committed to improving rail safety and service in communities across the country. Several FRA programs target rural communities (this term includes grantees in designated rural areas and federally recognized Indian Tribes) for rail infrastructure investment and improvement, particularly those authorized by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law of 2021. FRA's efforts in rural communities complement the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) Rural Opportunities to Use Transportation for Economic Success (ROUTES) program. DOT initiated ROUTES to improve rural transportation infrastructure, across all modes, and meet our nation’s priority transportation goals of safety and economic competitiveness.

Recent Initiatives Benefiting Rural Communities

The Bipartisan Infrastructure LawBIL Calendar thumbnail

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL), signed on November 15, 2021, provides unprecedented Federal funding for rail improvement projects in America. Over five years (FY22-FY26), FRA will implement greatly expanded existing programs and launch new programs to enhance our nation’s rail network. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes $102 billion in total rail funding, including $66 billion from advanced appropriations, and $36 billion in authorized funding.

One goal of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is to help fund rural projects that address deteriorating conditions and disproportionately high fatality rates and transportation costs in rural communities. The BIL allows FRA to invest in rural communities through its discretionary grant programs as well as its long-term rail planning, such as the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study.


Discretionary Grant Program ToolFRA Grants Tool

This interactive resource provides stakeholders with a targeted approach to finding FRA discretionary grant programs based on their respective eligibilities. Prospective grant applicants can find out which grant programs align best with their project type and entity type. Users can then click through to the FRA webpages dedicated to those particular grant programs to learn more about eligibility and consult the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for more detailed information.


Justice40 Rail Explorer ToolJustice40 Rail Explorer Tool

The Justice40 Rail Explorer is an interactive web application that combines data from multiple sources to allow users to understand rail infrastructure and potential improvement projects in the context of the surrounding communities. The purpose of the tool is to facilitate an understanding of how rail infrastructure intersects with communities and to foster communication of the benefits to those communities of potential rail investments.

  • To view presentation materials from the December 6, 2023, webinar, visit FRA's Webinars webpage, Grants & Loans drop-down. 


Rural Spotlight

FY22 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant Program awards included 70 projects in 35 states and Washington, D.C., totaling $1.4 billion—more than tripling the amount awarded in FY21 ($368 million). Projects will benefit every region of the country, with nearly two-thirds of CRISI funding flowing to rural communities. For more information about FY22 CRISI awards to rural communities, access the complete list of FY22 CRISI grant recipients.

Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement Project ($178.4 million) 
This project will restore passenger service in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, where it has not existed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Investments will make several track and signal-related improvements, grade crossing upgrades, and station improvements to add two new daily round trips between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama. While expanding Amtrak passenger rail service and making improvements to the Mobile train station, the project will also help maintain reliable freight operations along a line used by CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern Railway.
Mobile, AL, Station Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement Project image
Amtrak Photo by Marc Glucksman
Tennessee Short Line Railroads Bridge Bundle Project ($23.7 million)
This project will upgrade approximately 42 bridges along 10 different short line railroads in need of immediate, extensive repair or replacement. The impacted bridges are located throughout the state of Tennessee, and their upgrades will strengthen the short line rail network and improve operational efficiency.
TN Short Line Railroads Bridge Bundle Project image



ROUTES subscription graphic