Almost $2.3 billion in funding is available in Fiscal Year 2022 “to expand and modernize intercity passenger rail nationwide” through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program (Partnership Program), the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) reported Dec. 7.
Administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the Partnership Program “has long funded the revitalization of rail assets, such as fixing track, structures, and grade crossings,” USDOT said. “Previous grants have funded rehabilitation type projects such as the Kalamazoo to Dearborn rail corridor in Michigan and the Piedmont Corridor in North Carolina. These routes and others are used by tens of millions of Americans each year, and new investments will increase the reliability and frequency of service and reduce delays.”
According to USDOT, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act) “greatly expands the scope, funding and vision of the Partnership Program.” In addition to projects that “replace, rehabilitate, or repair infrastructure, equipment or a facility used for providing intercity passenger rail service to bring such assets into a state of good repair,” for example, “eligible entities can now apply to expand and establish new intercity passenger and high-speed rail services. In addition, projects that improve the safety, reliability, and performance of intercity passenger rail services and project planning elements, such as environmental review and final design, are also now eligible for funding under the Partnership Program.”
A Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Partnership Program was published in the Federal Register’s Dec. 7 edition (download below). Grant funding is specifically for projects not located on the Northeast Corridor (NEC), which comprises the main rail line between Boston, Mass., and the District of Columbia; the branch rail lines connecting to Harrisburg, Pa., Springfield, Mass., and Spuyten Duyvil, N.Y; and facilities and services used to operate and maintain these lines. FRA is slated to publish a separate Notice for projects located on the NEC.
FRA reported that it is looking to award projects “that align with the President’s greenhouse gas reduction goals, promote energy efficiency, support fiscally responsible land use and efficient transportation design, increase climate resilience, support domestic manufacturing, and reduce pollution.” It also seeks projects that address environmental justice, racial equity and barriers to opportunity, and “deteriorating conditions and disproportionately high fatality rates and transportation costs in rural communities.”
Eligible applicants include a state (including the District of Columbia); a group of states; an Interstate Compact; a public agency or publicly chartered authority established by one or more states; a political subdivision of a state; Amtrak, acting on its own behalf or under a cooperative agreement with one or more states; a federally recognized Indian Tribe; or any combination of these entities. The federal share of total costs for projects funded under this Notice will not exceed 80%, according to FRA, which noted that the minimum 20% non-federal share may comprise public-sector (e.g., state or local) or private-sector funding. Applications are due no later than 5 p.m. ET, March 7, 2023.
“This Partnership Program NOFO offers exciting opportunities to expand federal support for intercity passenger and high-speed rail services to all parts of our nation,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “FRA will work closely with states and stakeholders to provide sustained and dedicated investments in this vital mode of transportation, and together, we will reshape America’s passenger rail network for generations to come.”
Amtrak CEO Stephen Gardner issued the following statement on Dec. 7: “This is a historic opportunity to modernize intercity passenger rail and Amtrak service to underserved communities across the nation. We thank the Administration and Congress for making this opportunity a reality, and we look forward to working with the FRA and our state partners to provide more trains to more people in more communities.”
In related developments, FRA last month published a NEC priority-project list that it said will serve as a “pipeline to assist Amtrak, states and the public with long-term planning that will improve service.”