FRA doles out more than $326 million in grants

Written by Andrew Corselli, Managing Editor
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) recently announced that 45 projects in 29 states will benefit from $326 million-plus in grant money under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program and the Special Transportation Circumstances (STC) Program.

The funds, FRA noted, will go toward “a wide variety of state and local railroad infrastructure projects,” and more than one-third of the funds—more than $118 million—were awarded to rural projects.

As part of the $326 million-plus, the FRA announced more than $2 million in STC funds to the state of Alaska. Another recipient is the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis (TRRA), which revealed a $28.8 million CRISI grant to replace the main span girders on the MacArthur Bridge. The current girder system in place was constructed in 1912 and “needs to be replaced.” The $57.3 million project will see the FRA providing approximately 50% of the funding with the TRRA providing the other 50%.

“This grant shows the ongoing commitment of the Federal Railroad Administration to providing critical public investments in the St. Louis area and U.S. economy,” said TRRA President Mike McCarthy. “The awarded funds are critical to maintaining the current level of service to cargoes shipped by rail and passengers on Amtrak, which in turn reduces congestion and wear and tear on the region’s highways.”

The Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) Program’s Dolton Junction Interlocking project in Dolton and Riverdale, Ill., also said it is receiving a CRISI grant worth $19,206,398 to “help ease rail congestion in the south suburbs and far south side of Chicago.”

“This important investment will not only improve rail speed and service reliability, it will help keep passengers, drivers and pedestrians safe. It also creates good-paying jobs for the people of Dolton and the Southside of Chicago,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). “Senator [Tammy] Duckworth (D-Ill.) and I are proud to support this improvement project, and will continue advocating for strong investments in Illinois’ transportation infrastructure.”

“More than 100 freight trains and several passenger trains use the Dolton Interlocking System each day, creating significant congestion and causing delays and aggravation for Illinoisans and rail users,” said Duckworth. “This critical funding will modernize the interlocking and relieve this bottleneck to improve reliability and boost our economic development. I am committed to working with Senator Durbin and other members of the Illinois congressional delegation to promote infrastructure improvements across Chicagoland and the state of Illinois and bring back as much investment as possible.”

“The AAR commends all stakeholders involved in this grant process for moving the ball forward on yet another aspect of the CREATE program, an exemplary public-private partnership increasing fluidity throughout the Chicago region for both freight customers and rail passengers,” said Ian Jefferies, President and CEO, Association of American Railroads (AAR). “This includes the USDOT, the Illinois Congressional delegation, IDOT, other local partners and Amtrak, as well as privately owned freight railroads for continuing to deliver the private capital needed to move CREATE projects like this forward. By updating the interlocking system at this busy rail corridor, railroads will be able to move more efficiently through the area, which will bolster safety and lessen driver and pedestrian disruptions.”

A full list of the recipients and their projects can be found below. And many in the industry were understandably ecstatic about the news.

“These investments in intercity passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

“These are the partnerships that help rural and urban communities thrive economically,” said FRA Administrator Ronald Batory. “The participation of multiple partners demonstrates the importance of these funds and tells us they will be a key asset in improving safety for communities and railroads around the country.”

“ASLRRA is pleased that 21 short line and regional railroads have been awarded FY2018 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants in the latest round of funding,” said Chuck Baker, President, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA). “The FRA has once again recognized the significant part that our small business railroads play in connecting more than 10,000 shippers to the domestic and international marketplaces. The availability of programs that allow railroads to leverage their significant private investment to upgrade rails and bridges to modern standards leads to safer, more fuel- and cost-efficient rail service. Federal policies such as CRISI, balanced regulatory policy across freight modes and the Short Line Tax Credit (45G) are proven solutions that keep freight rail service to small town and rural America viable, enhance safety and grow the American economy.”

“At Amtrak, we believe services such as our Amtrak Midwest network are what the future of passenger rail service looks like: safe, relevant and reliable, connecting major markets such as St. Louis with Chicago and Kansas City,” said Joe McHugh, Amtrak VP, State Supported Services. “We are proud to partner with the States of Illinois and Missouri, and are looking forward to working with the TRRA to accomplish the next steps.”

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