The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on June 5 reported that 63 projects will share more than $570 million in Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program funding to address safety at 400-plus at-grade crossings nationwide.
The awards for projects in 32 states follow the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) June 2022 release of the new program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity.
FRA, the program administrator, said the funding will be used to “improve safety, and make it easier to get around railroad tracks by adding grade separations, closing at-grade crossings, and improving existing at-grade crossings where train tracks and roads intersect.”
Projects in rural areas or on Tribal lands accounted for 22% of all funding or $127.5 million.
Along with projects that build or upgrade physical infrastructure at railroad crossings, FRA said it awarded $15.7 million for planning activities and $33.1 million for project development and design activities that “will build a pipeline of projects for future funding.” West Virginia received funding for two such projects.
Among the major projects selected for funding this year: (Scroll down for the complete, downloadable list.)
- Alabama: The city of Pelham will receive $41.77 million for the Railroad Crossing Elimination on Shelby County Road 52 project, which will construct a bridge and eliminate two existing at-grade crossings. The cities of Pelham and Helena, Shelby County, and CSX will contribute funds totaling a 20% non-federal match. Shelby County Road 52, which FRA said carries the second-highest traffic volume of any east-to-west route in the area, currently cuts the city in half. “When blocked by stalled or slow-moving trains, emergency and hazmat responders are prevented from accessing half the city,” according to the federal agency. “Infrastructure improvements will establish a permanent, reliable route for emergency responders and decrease delays for the 24,000 drivers utilizing County Road 52 daily.” The new bridge is slated to increase capacity to five lanes with a multi-use path to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. More than 30 daily trains destined for the Port of Mobile run on the CSX line through Pelham.
- California: Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (LACMTA) will receive $38.30 million for the Doran Street Grade Separation Project, which will eliminate the at-grade crossing at Doran Street and construct a grade-separated structure that links Los Angeles and Glendale by connecting West San Fernando Road to the Fairmont Avenue bridge. The crossing right-of way is owned by Metrolink. LACMTA on June 9 reported that it is providing a 28% non-federal match to help pay for the $58.3 million project, which is now fully funded and will officially begin construction scheduling. The project will specifically support LACMTA’s work to eliminate an at-grade crossing that today manages up to 90 train trips per day, according to the transit agency, which noted that train volumes are anticipated to increase to 116 trains per weekday when the project is completed in 2026. A second $220.7 million project phase will also build a nearby overpass at Salem and Sperry streets. The Doran Street Grade Separation Project is part of LACMTA’s Regional Rail Program. “Our partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation—including the FRA—has never been stronger and this grant is evidence of this welcome fact,” LACMTA CEO Stephanie Wiggins said. “Safety is always Metrolink’s top priority and the Doran Street Grade Separation Project will benefit the riders of both our Antelope Valley Line and our Ventura County Line,” Metrolink CEO Darren Kettle added.
- Indiana: The city of Hammond will receive $7.03 million for the Governors Parkway Railroad Overpass Project, which will build a new, centrally located overpass and eliminate two grade crossings where Parrish Avenue and Arizona Avenue intersect with Norfolk Southern’s (NS) line. The city, the state of Indiana and NS will provide funding totaling a 26% non-federal match. The project also includes $2.63 million in Federal Highway Administration funds. “The new overpass will eliminate major traffic delays on some of the city’s busiest streets and better connect residents, like those in southeast Hessville, where highway rail crossing delays impact their ability to get to their jobs, the grocery store, or other required services and amenities,” reported FRA, which noted that the project will provide “a safe route for vehicles/trucks to traverse the city [of Hammond, which includes 53 at-grade crossings] and not encounter current crossings blocked by trains in a four-mile area.” The project will provide one lane of vehicle travel in each direction and a multi-use path for pedestrians and bikers.
- Florida: The Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMPO) will receive $15.44 million for the Broward County Sealed Corridor Project that FRA said would boost safety at 21 grade crossings along the state’s East Coast freight rail corridor, which is shared with Brightline’s intercity passenger rail service. The BMPO and six local municipalities (Dania Beach, Wilton Manors, Ft. Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, and Pompano Beach) will contribute a 20% non-federal match. “Along the corridor, 17% of collisions are the result of motorists driving around entrance gates, with nearly 60% of those instances occurring in Broward County,” FRA reported. “Safety improvements will deter such actions by constructing 33 new exit gates and seven raised medians at crossings where at least 27 collisions have occurred over the past five years.” More than 60 trains per day are estimated to pass through the corridor by next year, according to the federal agency.
- Iowa: The city of Davenport will receive $7.76 million for the South Concord Street Grade Separation project to eliminate one highway-rail crossing and build an overpass at another. The city and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) are contributing funds totaling a 20% non-federal match. “At crossings where trains pass at least 10 times daily, improvements will ensure safe and reliable access to the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant, a necessity serving approximately 140,000 residents in Davenport, Bettendorf, Panorama Park and Riverdale,” FRA reported. “Importantly, for the workers at the water facility as well as the nearby compost facility and Nahant Rail Yard, first responders will have an unobstructed path to each location, ensuring timely emergency response when required.” The overpass will be built to withstand 100-year or stage 23.6 floods in an area where transportation has come to a halt due to flooding of the nearby Mississippi River, according to the federal agency.
- Ohio: The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) will receive $7.25 million for the Unlocking the Iron Triangle: Grade Separation of S Town Street, Fostoria, Ohio, project, which covers planning, project development, final design, right-of-way and construction to eliminate three grade crossings. According to FRA, ORDC, CSX and NS will contribute a total of 31% in non-federal matching funds; $69,000 of this project funding amount qualifies for the statutory set-aside for planning projects. “Known as the Iron Triangle neighborhood, access to and from the community depends upon one of the three existing highway/rail grade crossings,” reported FRA, which noted that every 26 minutes, a CSX train travels through Fostoria. “Even when trains run efficiently, rail traffic means active traffic control devices at crossings sound for at least two hours per day in the east side Iron Triangle neighborhood.”
- Texas: The city of Houston will receive $36.92 million for the West Belt Improvement Project (Phase 1) to support project development activities, final design and construction of a 9,000-foot sealed corridor, including the construction of four underpasses and the closure of four at-grade crossings to eliminate seven existing at-grade crossings, where FRA said more than 850 incidents of train blockages have been reported this year through its online portal. The city will contribute a 20% non- federal match. The project is part of the city’s effort to create a future 14,600-foot sealed corridor along the Houston Belt & Terminal Railroad (HB&T) line, according to FRA, which noted that HB&T provides trackage rights to Union Pacific (UP), BNSF and CPKC, and the rail line connects with UP and BNSF.
- Washington: The city of Washougal will receive $40.48 million for the 32nd Street Underpass Project that will cover development, final design, right-of-way acquisition and rail bridge construction, which FRA said will better reconnect the Addy Street neighborhood with the downtown and port areas. The city is contributing a 20% non-federal match. “The proposed design will reduce freight rail bottlenecks and allow for increased operational speeds,” FRA reported. This will require reconstruction of five key intersections along 32nd Street, of which the rail right-of-way is owned by BNSF.
Additional Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program funding will be made available annually over the next four years, according to FRA.
“Every year, commuters, residents and first responders lose valuable time waiting at blocked railroad crossings—and worse, those crossings are too often the site of collisions that could be prevented,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we’re improving rail crossings in communities across the country to save lives, time, and resources for American families.”
According to FRA, in 2022 there were more than 2,000 highway/rail crossing collisions in the U.S. and more than 30,000 reports of blocked crossings submitted to FRA’s public complaint portal.
“The Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is another critical tool that FRA is using to make a lasting impact on the safety and transportation needs of communities nationwide,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “With these project selections and the many more that are to come, we will save lives and reshape infrastructure in ways that allow individuals to move through their neighborhoods seamlessly and safely.”
“The safest, best crossing is no crossing at all,” Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies said in a June 5 statement. “The projects selected for this initial round of investment will advance safety and reduce traffic delays, while also keeping goods moving across the nation. Everyone wins through this type of smart infrastructure investment, and railroads are proud to support this transformational program.”
AAR reported that outside of the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program program, “railroads work collaboratively with local road authorities, private property owners and the USDOT to identify grade crossings that can be consolidated, upgraded or closed. Since 2005, the total number of at-grade crossings across the nation has declined by 10%. RCE funding will further these initiatives to reduce the impact of rail operations on nearby communities.“
“At Norfolk Southern, we live and work in the communities we serve across our 22-state network, and strong collaboration with local leaders is critical,” NS Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Mike McClellan said on June 9. “The FRA’s Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is an important partnership, helping improve safety and enhancing the mobility of the communities where we operate. The grants announced this week will have a positive, lasting impact on the safety of our employees and the communities we serve for years to come.”
In addition to its work on the Governors Parkway Railroad Overpass Project in Indiana and the Grade Separation of S Town Street Project in Ohio (see project listings above), NS is also taking part in the following projects being funded for planning, engineering and/or construction at high-impact locations: Conversion of At-Grade Crossing on Constitution Road to Grade Separated Crossing Project (DeKalb County, Ga.; FRA is providing $460,000); Brush College Road and Faries Parkway Grade Separation Project (Decatur, Ill.; FRA is providing $16 million); Buffington Harbor Gateway Project (Gary, Ind.; FRA is providing $4.5 million); Peru Grade Separation Feasibility Study (Peru, Ind.; FRA is providing $76,000); Kennedy Avenue Railroad Overpass Project (Schererville, Ind.; FRA is providing $8.45 million); Wells County Hoosier Highway Crossing Elimination Project (Wells County, Ind.; FRA is providing $1.11 million); Durham Rail-Crossing Engagement, Planning, and Innovative Revitalization Project (Durham, N.C.; Durham County Government; FRA is providing $1.22 million); and 3rd St SE and Norfolk Southern Railroad Grade Separation (Cleveland, Tenn.; FRA is providing $27.48 million).