FRA Awards $233MM in SOGR Grants

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
(Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)

(Photograph Courtesy of Amtrak)

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on Aug. 18 awarded more than $233 million to 11 projects in eight states that will upgrade intercity passenger rail service. The grants are provided under the FY 2021 Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair (SOGR) Program (Partnership Program).

The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the program was released in December 2021; applications were due March 7, 2022.

FRA reported that the FY 2021 Partnership Program investments will help replace bridges and tunnels along the Northeast Corridor in New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Connecticut—each of which is more than 100 years old—as well as “increase the safety, reliability and sustainability” of rail infrastructure in California, Michigan and Massachusetts, and make improvements to Chicago Union Station.

Following is the project award list, by state: 

  1. California – San Diego Rail Optimization and Resilience Program: The San Diego Association of Governments will use up to $27.3 million to replace the 100-year-old San Luis Rey River Bridge with a double-track concrete bridge, eliminating a 0.6-mile single-track bottleneck in the city of Oceanside. Also to be improved: an adjacent bike path; a pedestrian underpass; an FRA-approved Quiet Zone at-grade crossing; and grading, drainage and signals. The project is on the San Diego Subdivision of the Los Angeles-San Diego (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor, which is used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, as well as Coaster and Metrolink commuter services, and BNSF freight service.
  2. Connecticut – Connecticut River Bridge Replacement Project: Amtrak will use up to $65.2 million to build a movable bridge, replacing the aging Connecticut River bridge, over which Amtrak, Connecticut Shore Line East commuter rail and freight rail services operate. According to FRA, the new bridge will “improve maritime traffic by providing a bascule moveable span with additional vertical clearance” and allow maximum train speeds to increase from 45 mph to 70 mph. The project received a $65.2 million award under the FY 2020 Partnership Program.
  3. Connecticut – New Haven Line Power Program Phase I: The Connecticut Department of Transportation will use up to $20 million to replace two power substations for the railroad signaling system along the Connecticut-owned New Haven Line. Upward of 350 MTA Metro-North Railroad commuter trains and 60 Amtrak trains travel the line each day. 
  4. Illinois – Chicago Union Station (CUS) Concourse Improvement Project: Amtrak will use up to $3 million for the final design and construction management of Chicago Union Station’s concourse level, which serves Amtrak and Metra commuter rail riders. Final design is slated to address passenger flow, bottlenecks, accessibility and directional signage. According to Amtrak, another $3 million in project costs will be provided by Amtrak ($400,000); Illinois Department of Transportation ($250,000); Metra ($1.5 million); Chicago Department of Transportation ($600,000); and Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways ($250,000). “A renovated Chicago Union Station concourse will support network growth of intercity passenger rail in the Midwest, increasing access to jobs, providing new service to underserved communities, and promoting a more economic and environmentally sustainable mode of transit,” said Jeannie Kwon, Amtrak Vice President, Stations/Capital Delivery. “Production of final design documents will allow Amtrak to quickly secure a construction contractor to execute a high-quality design.” This project is part of the larger $418 million Chicago Union Station Access Project, which is up for $251 million in MEGA grant funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation. 
  5. Maryland – Final Design for Phase 1 of the Susquehanna River Bridge Replacement: Amtrak will use up to $20 million to fund the final design of a new Susquehanna River Bridge. The original 115-year-old bridge serves Amtrak and MARC commuter rail trains, as well as freight trains on the Northeast Corridor. The new bridge is slated to have a higher clearance above the river; to feature a moveable span; and to increase intercity passenger train speeds from 90 mph to 125 mph.
  6. Massachusetts – South Elm Street Bridge Replacement Project: The Massachusetts Bay Area Transportation Authority (MBTA) will use up to $7.6 million to replace the 100-year-old-plus South Elm Street Bridge with a two-track rail bridge. The bridge, located on an MBTA-owned rail corridor, is used by Amtrak’s Downeaster service and MBTA commuter rail service between Boston and Haverhill.
  7. Michigan – Michigan Accelerated Rail Bridge Reconstruction Project: The Michigan Department of Transportation (DOT) will use up to $1.55 million for preliminary engineering and preparation of National Environmental Policy Act documents for the reconstruction of five bridge structures, which are located on the Michigan DOT-owned segment of the rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. According to FRA, the project “will allow the state to avoid future bridge closures, improve reliability, and increase load ratings, and will benefit travelers using Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water services.”
  8. New Jersey – Sawtooth Bridges Replacement Project: Amtrak will use up to $45.04 million to complete the final design of the Sawtooth Bridges Replacement project, which will replace two 110-year-old railroad bridges in Kearny, N.J., with three new ones. “As part of the Gateway Program, the new bridges will allow for a four-track segment between Newark and New York City,” FRA reported. “The four-track replacement will provide redundancy for operations during maintenance work or service disruptions, minimizing disruptions and delays and improving reliability and capacity to both Amtrak and NJ Transit services. The replacement bridges will also increase operating speeds above the current 60 mph limit.”
  9. New York – East River Tunnel Rehabilitation Enabling Components: Amtrak will use up to $10.69 million to complete “early action capital projects necessary for the larger East River Tunnel Rehabilitation project, including relocating an electric traction power cable and re-installing and improving a track connection within Sunnyside Yard,” according to FRA. “The East River Tunnels carry all Amtrak Northeast Corridor and MTA Long Island Rail Road services as well as New Jersey Transit non-revenue services. The project will reduce the risk of delays and outages associated with cable failures during the future Line 2 rehabilitation project and will significantly enhance safety and reliability for trains traveling through the tunnel.”
  10. New York – Pelham Bay Bridge Replacement Project: Amtrak will use up to $4.5 million to complete National Environmental Policy Act documentation and preliminary engineering for the Pelham Bay Bridge Replacement project. This project will replace a 115-year-old Amtrak-owned and operated railroad bridge in the Bronx with a new two-track movable span, and allow train speeds to increase from 45 mph to 60-100 mph.
  11. New York – Rhinecliff Station High Level Platform, Vertical Circulation and Interlocking Project: The New York State Department of Transportation will use up to $28.22 million for final project design and construction. The project will replace the existing 520-foot-long low-level platform at Rhinecliff Station with a new, longer high-level platform. Ninety miles from New York City, the station serves 26 Amtrak trains daily. Related track and signal work will “increase operational flexibility needed for current and projected future demand,” FTA reported. “The project also includes new circulation and access to the platform, including stairs, elevators and a pedestrian bridge. These upgrades are part of a program of projects needed to increase daily round-trip trains from 13 to 17 on the Empire Corridor between New York and Albany.”
FRA Administrator Amit Bose

“For years, the Partnership Program has helped bring intercity passenger rail services to a state of good repair by reducing the maintenance backlog and ensuring Americans are connected to opportunity and each other,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “Under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the FRA now has the exciting opportunity to further this mission while making intercity passenger rail service available to even more communities.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) “expands the funding, scope and vision of FRA’s enhanced Federal State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program. The new program builds on prior successes and increases funding to … $7.2 billion annually for the next five years. This increase in funding will advance projects that expand and establish new intercity passenger rail services to more communities across the country. It will also retain its focus on upgrading existing services and will contribute more money for projects on the Northeast Corridor.” (Download fact sheet below.)

FRA this fall will release a NOFO for the FY22 Partnership Program.

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