Amtrak Applies for FRA Grants to Upgrade Long-Distance Network, NEC Infrastructure

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
Amtrak has applied for multiple federal grants to improve its Long Distance network. (Amtrak Photograph)

Amtrak has applied for multiple federal grants to improve its Long Distance network. (Amtrak Photograph)

Amtrak on June 5 reported submitting grant applications to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) for 16 proposed Long-Distance projects to improve service and for 14 proposed Northeast Corridor (NEC) projects to update infrastructure, improve stations and expand service. Total value: more than $8 billion.

The Long-Distance service applications—totaling about $716 million—were submitted through two FRA programs funded by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program for projects outside the Northeast Corridor (April 21, 2023 deadline) and the Corridor Identification and Development Program (March 20, 2023 deadline).

Following are among the projects that Amtrak requested funding for:

  • Multiple Cardinal and Sunset Limited service improvements, including increasing service to operate daily, up from three times per week currently; upping Cardinal train speeds and reducing travel times between Indianapolis and Dyer, Ind.; and returning Sunset Limited service to Phoenix, Ariz.
  • Southwest Chief signal modernization between Colorado and New Mexico.
  • Empire Builder rail improvements in Montana.
  • I-20 Crescent service extension from Mississippi through Louisiana to Texas. (For more, read: “Amtrak, Southern Rail Commission Seek Federal Study for Long-Distance Service across Mississippi and Louisiana to Texas.”)
  • Construction of a new Crystal City station that would add service to Arlington, Va.

Amtrak said it also submitted funding requests through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program (FSP-NEC Program; March 27, 2023 deadline) to begin construction on several major backlog projects on the NEC. Valued at nearly $7.3 billion, Amtrak and its partners have been working to advance these projects through the design and engineering phases to prepare for construction.

(Amtrak Photograph)

Among them:

“In order for Amtrak to continue advancing a new era of passenger rail, we must make generational investments that require federal funding,” Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner said of the NEC projects. “Securing these grants would help reaffirm our commitment to improving and replacing critical railroad infrastructure, ensuring better service for years to come.”

“Amtrak’s Long Distance routes are vital mobility and economic links for communities around the country and we’re continually working to enhance them,” Amtrak Board Chair Tony Coscia said. “These grant applications reiterate our commitment to improving service for all Amtrak customers, from small, rural towns to major metropolitan areas.”

Separately, it won’t be until sometime in 2024 that Amtrak’s new Acela II high-speed trainsets for the NEC will begin revenue service, three years behind schedule, as problems during testing have surfaced.

Further Reading:

Oklahoma, Kansas Officials Make Joint Request that FRA Add Heartland Flyer Expansion to Corridor ID Program

KIPDA, Metro Government Submit $500,000 FRA Planning Grant Application to resume Amtrak Service between Louisville, Ky., and Indianapolis, Ind.

Common Themes Emerge from FRA’s Stakeholder Meetings Studying Restoration, Expansion of Amtrak Long-Distance Passenger Rail Services

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