The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on May 1 announced that $5 million is available to establish and maintain a Rail Research and Development Center of Excellence, which will “seek to improve the safety, performance, and sustainability of freight, intercity passenger, and commuter rail.”
FRA released for public inspection the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO; download below), which includes $5 million in annual grant funding from Fiscal Years (FY) 2022 and 2023, made possible by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. Another $2.5 million will be made available in FY 2024, subject to the availability of funds, for a total of $7.5 million, the agency reported.
UPDATE: FRA noted in the May 23 edition of the Federal Register: “Applications that are incomplete or received after 5:00 p.m. ET on July 3, 2023 will not be considered for funding.”
The Center of Excellence is designed as a three-year program. Only one Center of Excellence may be established, but it may reside at one institution or be a consortium of member institutions, according to the NOFO.
Eligible applicants include those with “strong past performance related to rail research, education and workforce development activities,” FRA said. “This includes developing transformative research, incorporating climate and clean energy priorities in research, a demonstrated ability to achieve workforce development goals, Minority Serving Institution (MSI) / Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU) / Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) participation, a commitment to underrepresented/underserved communities and economic equity, and the involvement of public and private sector passenger and freight railroads.”
Funding would be provided to an entity for research activities “that would include basic and applied research, evaluation, education, workforce development, and training efforts related to safety, project delivery, efficiency, reliability, resiliency, and sustainability of urban commuter, intercity high-speed and freight rail transportation, to include advances in rolling stock, advanced Positive Train Control, human factors, rail infrastructure, shared corridors, grade crossing safety, inspection technology, remote sensing, rail systems maintenance, network resiliency, operational reliability, energy efficiency, and other advanced technologies,” according to the NOFO.
The federal share of total costs of establishing and maintaining the Center of Excellence and any related research activities funded under this notice will not exceed 50%.
“To have the world-class rail services that Americans deserve, we need to plan for and invest in the future, modernize our rail infrastructure, and put dedicated men and women on a path of opportunity and possibility for decades to come,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said during the May 1 NOFO announcement.