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$302 million in federal grants awarded to rail infrastructure projects

Tank cars. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Twelve projects in nine states have been awarded more than $302 million in grants to upgrade track and railroad crossings, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced on May 27.

The grants under the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair program are for capital projects to repair, replace or rehabilitate publicly or Amtrak-owned or -controlled railroad assets, according to FRA. The grants also seek to reduce the repair backlog and improve the performance of intercity passenger rail. 

Eligible projects included upgrades to track, switches, bridges, passenger stations, highway-rail grade crossings and equipment such as passenger cars.

The 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act designated $396 million for the grant program. The remaining $93.4 million will be available through a notice of funding opportunity for 2020 funds, FRA said.

According to the award descriptions, many of the grants would also benefit freight rail by improving the region’s network flow.

The grants include: 

  • California – Coastal Bluff Track Bed Stabilization and Seismic Improvements Project to the San Diego Association of Governments and the North County Transit District (up to $11.6 million). The project rehabilitates and upgrades a section of North County Transit District-owned track located on sensitive coastal bluffs in Del Mar, California, to protect against erosion that has disrupted rail service in the corridor multiple times in recent years, FRA said. 
  • California – Four Rural Rail Bridges/Rehabilitation and Scour Mitigation to the Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA) (up to $.6.8 million). This project rehabilitates and performs scour mitigation on four existing bridges on the SCRRA-controlled Ventura Subdivision, used by Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner service and Metrolink’s Ventura County Line service where the rail line crosses the Arroyo Simi Channel.
  • Connecticut – Walk Bridge Replacement Project (Opportunity Zone) to the Connecticut Department of Transportation and Amtrak (up to $29.9 million). The project replaces the existing movable Norwalk (Walk) River Bridge, built in 1896, with two independent two-track vertical lift rail bridges. The project also includes associated improvements to the embankments and retaining walls on the bridge approaches, new catenary structures, and signal system upgrades.
  • Illinois – Milwaukee North Line Interlocking Improvements to the Commuter Rail Division of the Regional Transportation Authority (Metra) (up to $12.5 million). The project rehabilitates and modernizes three interlockings on the Metra-owned Milwaukee North Line in Illinois. The line is used by Amtrak’s Hiawatha and Empire Builder services, Metra’s Milwaukee District North service and two freight railroads. The project will bring signal components into a state-of-good-repair, improve compatibility with positive train control and replace obsolete components for which replacement parts are no longer available.
  • Maryland – Northeast Corridor Track A Winans to Bridge Improvement Project (Opportunity Zone) to Amtrak and the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Maryland Transportation Authority (up to $8 million). This project rehabilitates and upgrades a five-mile section of the Amtrak-owned Northeast Corridor mainline near Baltimore, Maryland. The project will restore Track A to FRA Class 5 (90 mph) from Class 3 (60 mph) to support higher speeds, improve ride quality and provide operational flexibility.
  • Michigan – Kalamazoo-Dearborn Track and Signal Infrastructure Reliability Improvement Projects (Opportunity Zone) to the Michigan Department of Transportation (up to $6.5 million). This project rehabilitates and upgrades signal and track infrastructure on the state-owned Kalamazoo-Dearborn corridor, used by Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water services as well as multiple freight operators. The work includes signal and grade crossing component rehabilitation, including replacing switch machines, switch heaters, backup power generators, and 26 gate crossing mechanisms at 18 crossings along the line. 
  • New Jersey – Portal North Bridge Project (Opportunity Zone) to Amtrak and the New Jersey Transit Corporation (up to $55.1 million): This project provides funds toward the intercity passenger railroad’s cost share for the Portal North Bridge Project, which replaces the existing two-track movable Portal Bridge with a new, 2.44-mile, two-track fixed span crossing the Hackensack River in northern New Jersey. 
  • New Jersey – Reconstruction of Substation 41 (Opportunity Zone) to the New Jersey Transit Corporation and Amtrak (up to $36.4 million). The project reconstructs Substation 41, an Amtrak-owned electrical facility in Kearny, New Jersey, that powers Northeast Corridor main line services in northern New Jersey into Penn Station New York. The proposed reconstruction includes: (1) rebuilding the substation at a higher elevation (15 feet); (2) creating a larger platform; and (3) rerouting or redirecting up to four traction power transmission circuits that feed the substation. 
  • New York – MTA Penn Station Access – Hell Gate Line Catenary System Replacement (Opportunity Zone) to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (up to $30 million). The project replaces 210 catenary structures on the Amtrak-owned Hell Gate Line between Penn Station and New Rochelle, New York. The structures were installed in the 1910s, have exceeded their useful life, and are prone to component failures related to age and fatigue.
  • New York – MTA Long Island Rail Road – Penn Station Platform Improvements to the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority (up to $17.5 million). This project rehabilitates platforms 7 and 8 at Penn Station. The project will also replace and rehabilitate staircase risers, tactile strips, lighting and signage, and remediate lead and asbestos. 
  • North Carolina – Piedmont Intercity Fleet & Infrastructure Investments Project Phase II to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (up to $80 million). This project purchases six locomotives and 13 passenger coaches to replace existing state-owned equipment that are 30- and 50-years old, respectively.
  • Pennsylvania – Harrisburg Line Capacity Improvements: Upgrade of Track 2 from Glen Interlocking to Thorn Interlocking to the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (up to $8.3 million). The project rehabilitates and upgrades Track 2 from Glen to Thorn Interlocking in Chester County, Pennsylvania, on the Amtrak-owned Harrisburg Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. The project will upgrade 10 miles of track to FRA Class 3 standards (60 mph) and upgrade the signal system with in-cab bidirectional signals.

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Joanna Marsh

Joanna is a Washington, DC-based writer covering the freight railroad industry. She has worked for Argus Media as a contributing reporter for Argus Rail Business and as a market reporter for Argus Coal Daily.