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Rail Law Alert: FRA Issues Notice of $311 Million in Funding for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grants 

On Monday, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for up to $311 million in eligible Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants that will be available to states or public authorities providing intercity passenger rail.  Applications for funding are due June 19, 2020, through

The CRISI grant program supports investments to improve railroad safety, efficiency and reliability; mitigate congestion at both intercity passenger and freight railroad chokepoints; enhance multi-modal connections; and support new or substantially improved intercity passenger rail transportation corridors.  Rail safety programs funded under CRISI grants may include:

  • Grade crossing enhancements
  • Rail line relocations
  • Improvements and deployments of railroad safety technology 
  • Regional rail and corridor planning, environmental analysis and research
  • Workforce development and training

Under the NOFO, at least 25% of the 2020 appropriation will be made available for rural projects and $45 Million will be made available for projects that require acquisition of rights-of-way, track or track structure projects to support the development for new intercity passenger rail service routes.  The NOFO specifies that there are no minimum or maximum dollar thresholds for awards.  FRA encourages applicants for these funds to identify and include other state, local, public or private funding or financing support for the project in order to maximize competitiveness.  Funding under the NOFO will be made through grant agreements and/or cooperative agreements.

Applicants eligible for funding include: a state; 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; and Amtrak or another rail carrier that provides intercity rail passenger transportation.  Applicants are not limited in the number of projects for which they may seek funding. 

The NOFO sets forth the following list of rail projects that are eligible for CRISI funding: 

  • Deployment of railroad safety technology, including positive train control (PTC) and rail integrity inspection systems
  • A capital project relating to intercity passenger rail service, including projects not required to be in a state rail plan under the CRISI program
  • A capital project necessary to address congestion challenges affecting rail service
  • A capital project necessary to reduce congestion and facilitate ridership growth in intercity passenger rail transportation along heavily traveled rail corridors
  • A highway-rail grade crossing improvement project
  • A rail line relocation and improvement project
  • A capital project to improve short-line or regional railroad infrastructure
  • A project necessary to enhance multimodal connections or facilitate service integration between rail service and other modes, including between intercity rail passenger transportation and intercity bus service or commercial air service
  • The development and implementation of a safety program or institute designed to improve rail safety
  • Any research the Secretary considers necessary to advance any particular aspect of rail related capital, operations, or safety developments
  • Workforce development and training activities

The NOFO contains detailed information on the application and submission process.  Projects will be evaluated based on project benefits, including a benefit-cost analysis, as well as technical merit. The FRA will give preference to projects that meet the following criteria: (A) the proposed Federal share of the total project costs is 50% or less; (B) the proposed non-Federal share is comprised of more than one source, including private sources, demonstrating broad participation by affected stakeholders; and (C) the net benefits of the grant funds will be maximized considering the benefit-cost analysis.