USDOT Awards $59MM for Commuter Rail Grade Crossing ImprovementsWritten by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
Five commuter rail agencies will receive a total of $59 million in grants for highway-rail grade crossing improvements in California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and Federal Transit Administration (FTA). The awards are part of round two of the Commuter Authority Rail Safety Improvement (CARSI) Grants Program.
Receiving grants are: Metrolink operator Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA; $12.5 million); Tri-Rail operator Southern Florida Regional Transportation Authority (SFRTA; $12.9 million); New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Metro-North Railroad ($4.4 million); NYSDOT and MTA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) ($14.9 million); and the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA; $15 million).
According to U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), grants for the five projects will be used to make highway-rail crossings safer for all parties, including:
- Adding signal features that will help drivers move away from the track before a train arrives in Ventura County, Southern California.
- Modernizing 25 commuter rail crossings with improved lighting and other safety features in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties in Florida.
- Improving accessibility and making warning system upgrades in Dutchess, Nassau, Putnam and Suffolk Counties in New York.
- Installing gates and upgrading pavement markings in communities around Philadelphia.
The CARSI competitive grant allocations consist of two rounds. In January 2021, five grants totaling $40.2 million were awarded for CARSI Round One projects.
The commuter rail agencies will use the grants for the following projects:
- SCRRA will bring three high-volume at-grade highway-railway crossings in Ventura County up to current grade crossing safety standards and compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The project, USDOT says, will improve safety for drivers by adding protective devices, wider medians, and modified crossing warning systems, and improve safety for pedestrians by adding emergency swing gates and right-of-way fencing. The crossings are located either adjacent to or within areas of persistent poverty and/or historically disadvantaged communities.
- SFRTA will modernize 25 rail crossings on its Tri-Rail commuter rail line in Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties. The project will upgrade LED lights and update signal houses, gate mechanisms, cantilevers, and light assemblies. The rail line, USDOT says, is in an area where vehicular traffic has increased and where train traffic is expected to increase over the next several years as well.
- NYSDOT and Metro-North Railroad (MNR) will make accessibility improvements for pedestrians and warning systems upgrades and implement other safety improvements at five grade crossings located in Dutchess and Putnam Counties on the MNR’s Hudson and Harlem Lines, which have substantial train volumes, USDOT says.
- NYSDOT and LIRR will make improvements on nine grade crossings located in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on the LIRR’s Central, Main Line and West Hempstead Branches, including interconnection to traffic signal systems, updates to railroad flashing light signals, installation of audible warning devices, enhanced pedestrian treatments and pathways, signs and pavement markings for vehicles approaching the grade crossing and roadway resurfacing and sidewalk expansion.
- SEPTA will add pavement markings and make other improvements at 22 highway-railway grade crossings in Philadelphia and in Bucks, Delaware and Montgomery Counties on its regional commuter rail system which shares significant trackage with freight carriers.
According to USDOT, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law continues funding for the FHWA Rail-Highway Crossings Program at $245 million per year for the next five years. It also added several flexibilities, including a higher Federal share and improved set-aside allowances, such as increasing allocations for data collection and projects beyond protective devices. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, USDOT says, also clarifies that funds are eligible for projects to reduce trespassing at rail crossings. In addition, the law increased Highway Safety Improvement Program funding by 34%, under which rail crossings safety improvements are eligible.
Additionally, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also provides $3 billion over five years to improve safety at highway-railway crossings. Under a new Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program, USDOT says the FRA will fund many types of projects including closures, track relocations, grade separations, as well as improvement or installation of warning devices at crossings if related to a separation or relocation. FRA’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Improvements also provides funding to eligible grade crossing safety projects.
“Safety is the number one priority of the USDOT, especially as our country faces a crisis of fatalities on our roadways,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “Today’s grants, along with additional funds from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will improve safety at highway-rail crossings for travelers, whether they’re riding, driving, biking or walking.”
“FRA is committed to investing in projects that will improve safety in communities across the country,” added FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “With investments made possible by President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and through coordinated efforts like the CARSI Program, we have an opportunity to improve rail crossings, keeping people safe while helping people and goods move more efficiently.”