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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

On November 15, 2021, President Biden signed the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL). The BIL 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

FY21 CRISI awards included 21 rural projects in 18 states totaling $183,961,374 out of $368,577,068 available. The FY21 rural awards nearly doubled the required 25% rural set-aside for CRISI. 

Sierra Northern Railway (SNR) Track Rehabilitation Project
This project rehabilitates the Oakdale Branch Line from Class I to Class II status replacing 90,000 railroad ties, rehabbing 10 miles of badly worn rail and making improvements to 10 grade crossings. Already freight capacity has increased by 420% and SNR has seen a reduction in costs for both the railroad and their shippers. Increased capacity and track speed has also led to customer growth and benefited the local economy.
Sierra Northern Railway Track Rehabilitation Project
South Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (SKOL) Rehabilitation Project    
This project makes upgrades across hundreds of miles of track—installing new rail, replacing crossties, repairing railroad bridges, and improving grade crossing surfaces. These improvements make the majority of the line 286,000-lb capable and will allow SKOL to move more freight faster and on safer infrastructure.
South Kansas and Oklahoma Rehabilitation Project



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