The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on June 30 released a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the new Railroad Crossing Elimination Program. More than $573 million in grant funds will be available in Fiscal Year 2022.
The NOFO will be placed on public inspection at the Federal Register on July 5 and published on July 6. Once published, it will be open for 90 days.
The Railroad Crossing Elimination Program was created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL)—also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was signed in November 2021—and will be administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). BIL provides a total of $3 billion over five years for this competitive discretionary grant program that will fund grade separation projects, such as overpasses and underpasses; closures; track relocations; and improvements to or installations of warning devices at crossings, if they are related to a separation or relocation project. Planning, environmental review, and other preliminary design elements are also eligible for grant funding. At least 20% of available funding is slated to go to rural and Tribal areas.
FRA will evaluate project proposals “based on their potential to improve safety by eliminating crossings or improving existing highway-rail grade crossings; to increase access to emergency services; to reduce emissions; to provide economic benefit; and to hire locally, among other possible community enhancements,” according to USDOT.
“Incidents this week in Missouri and California have underscored the tragic consequences of collisions between trains and vehicles that occur throughout the country,” USDOT said. “In 2021, there were approximately 2,148 grade crossing incidents, resulting in 236 deaths and 662 injuries.”
“The Railroad Crossing Elimination Program will make many grade crossings safer or eliminate them altogether in the coming years,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said during the announcement. “The projects funded by the program demonstrate the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s lasting impact on communities by strengthening their infrastructure, reducing congestion and saving lives.”
“These funds are a vital, new tool that will save lives and reduce driver delays,” Association of American Railroads President and CEO Ian Jefferies said in a statement following the announcement. “States and other eligible entities are positioned to strategically deploy these dollars and maximize the program’s impact. These types of investments from the bipartisan infrastructure package are win-wins for everyone that enhance safety, reduce driver wait times and keep goods moving across the country.”
Rail advocacy organization GoRail said it “commends the FRA’s efforts to improve safety at grade crossings and simultaneously calls on Congress to ensure the viability of this program into the future. By fully funding the Railroad Crossing Elimination Program at its authorized $5.5 billion level, Congress will help railroads and communities continue to tackle most rail safety incidents, with 95% of all rail-related deaths involving drivers at grade crossings or individuals on tracks.” GoRail added that the Railroad Crossing Elimination Program “recognizes that the safest grade crossing is no crossing at all.”
Earlier this month, FRA awarded more than $368 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program grants to projects that address highway-rail grade crossings; reduce congestion; upgrade short line and regional railroad infrastructure; relocate rail lines; improve intercity passenger rail capital assets; target trespassing; enhance multi-modal connections; and facilitate service integration between rail and other modes, such as at ports or intermodal facilities.