The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has issued a Request of Information (RFI) on the new Interstate Rail Compacts Grant Program that it will administer; comments are due Sept. 19, 2022.
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed by President Biden in November 2021, created the Interstate Rail Compacts Grant Program to provide “financial assistance to existing interstate rail compacts (IRCs) [, which are established in law by member states passing identical or near identical legislation,] to strengthen their capability to advance intercity passenger rail service within their regions,” FRA reported in the Aug. 19 edition of the Federal Register. Specifically, the program will fund the technical and administrative functions of IRCs and support coordination and promotion activities for rail services within a region.
“IRCs have a history of promoting intercity passenger rail projects within their regions and encouraging policies that foster the efficient development of intercity passenger rail projects,” FRA explained. “IRCs have also served as a means of regional coordination of rail projects sponsored by the departments of transportation in their member states. Furthermore, as investment in intercity passenger rail from state and federal governments over the past decade has created increasingly robust rail networks, a greater need has emerged for increased cooperation across state lines to coordinate intercity passenger rail services and project delivery. Certain regions have also expressed a desire for strong leadership to represent regional needs. IRCs present an opportunity to fulfill these needs.”
FRA is seeking input on how the Interstate Rail Compacts Grant Program can best support existing IRCs “so they are able to take a more central role in advancing the development of intercity passenger rail service.” The agency noted that while only established IRCs are eligible for financial assistance under the program, it is “considering whether offering other types of assistance outside of the program, such as technical support, to states interested in developing IRCs would be beneficial.” Comments on how FRA may be able to assist states in this way are also sought.
IRCs “deliver results and hold tremendous promise in advancing passenger rail development,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said during an early 2021 quarterly meeting of the Southern Rail Commission. (At that time, he served as acting Administrator.) The Southern Rail Commission—an IRC comprising governor-appointed commissioners who represent Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi—is among the advocates of Amtrak’s plan to launch service between New Orleans, La., and Mobile, Ala. In 2015, the Southern Rail Commission, FRA, Amtrak and others began work on returning service to the Gulf Coast, which was disrupted by Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and never resumed.
Download the Federal Register notice on the RFI below: