FRA: $9B to Modernize NEC

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor

"Americans deserve to have the best rail system in the world, and the investments we are announcing today will serve to modernize the NEC for generations of passengers," U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Dec. 22.

The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) making available nearly $9 billion to upgrade and expand passenger rail service along the Northeast Corridor (NEC), the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced Dec. 22.

The funds will be issued through the FRA administered Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program (Partnership Program), which grew to $36 billion over the next five years as a result of President Biden’s Infrastructure Law.

According to the FRA, the investment in the NEC, which stretches from Washington, D.C. to Boston, “will fund projects of national and regional significance; improving infrastructure; equipment; and facilities, including bridges and tunnels, rail stations and track,” and will help “improve reliability and result in fewer delays for the more than 200 million annual trips taken by commuters and intercity passenger riders on the NEC.”

The NEC is one of the highest-volume rail lines in the world, accounting for 20% of the nation’s GDP. According to the FRA, the number of Americans utilizing the corridor continues to grow, approaching pre-pandemic levels, with Amtrak ridership alone more than doubling in the last 12 months to 9.2 million passengers annually.

“Every day, hundreds of thousands of Americans rely on the NEC, our country’s busiest rail route,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Americans deserve to have the best rail system in the world, and the investments we are announcing today will serve to modernize the NEC for generations of passengers.”

The Partnership Program, which recently advanced project development and construction for major bridge replacement projects, including the Susquehanna River Bridge in Maryland, the Connecticut River Bridge, and the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, is a “competitive discretionary grant program that has supported the rehabilitation and renewal of intercity passenger rail infrastructure for years.”

Issued by the FRA in November, the NEC Project Inventory will “guide investments under the Partnership Program and promote a transparent, systematic, long-term strategy for growing the NEC.” It prioritizes key projects for funding, such as the repair and modernization of major bridges and tunnels–all of which are over a century old, including the Baltimore and Potomac Tunnel in Maryland, the Walk Bridge in Connecticut and the Hudson Tunnel in New Jersey, part of the Gateway Program.

Earlier this month, FRA also made nearly $2.3 billion available through the Partnership Program for intercity and high-speed rail projects nationwide. Taken together, more than $11 billion in passenger rail funds have been made available in the first round of funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

“Today’s investments are a major step towards reversing a half-century of underinvestment in vital rail infrastructure and will result in fewer delays for millions of riders and travelers,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “The expanded Partnership Program funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will ensure that the NEC thrives as the region’s economic and transportation backbone, while making its services more reliable, available, and accessible to even more people.”

The NEC Partnership Program NOFO will be published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Dec. 27. The NOFO can be viewed as submitted to the Federal Register here. Applications are due no later than 90 days after the publication date in the Federal Register, and FRA will provide technical assistance to potential applicants prior to the deadline. More information about the Partnership Program can be found here.

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