FRA Announces Billions in Grants for Passenger Rail

The FRA announced that funding would go to 10 projects in 9 states ready for construction and 69 corridors across 44 states identified for future development. Photo by Steve Barry. 

FRA Announces Billions in Grants for Passenger Rail

By Railfan & Railroad Staff

After news of individual grants dribbled out over a week, thanks to state and local leaders who got a chance to share the word locally, the Federal Railroad Administration announced Friday the full slate of passenger projects that will be getting federal funding in the coming years. The announcement included 10 projects in 9 states ready for construction and 69 corridors across 44 states identified for future development through two grant programs funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. 

The billions of dollars worth of grants that were dolled out last week builds on the $16.4 billion investment announced last month for 25 projects of national significance along the Northeast Corridor. 

While efforts to build high-speed rail routes on the West Coast got the most attention, there were major projects funded all over the country. In Chicago, Amtrak is getting $49.6 million for track improvements at Chicago Union Station. The Downeaster will get $27.4 million for track improvements in Maine and New Hampshire. More than $143 million will be spent on track and signal upgrades on Norfolk Southern’s main line between Pittsburgh and Harrisburg to improve Amtrak Pennsylvanian service. The full list of projects can be found here

Along with those major projects, 69 other proposals got grants of $500,000 to study expansions of existing services or the establishment of new services. Some more traditional projects include an effort to study the re-establishment of the North Coast Hiawatha across southern Montana, while more transformative projects include the establishment of a high-speed rail route between Seattle, Portland and Eugene, Ore. Other proposals include improvements to the Downeaster, with a service extension to Rockland, Maine, and looking at ways to ease transfers between North and South stations in Boston (thus connecting the Downeaster to the full Amtrak network). The full list of projects can be found here

“President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law gave us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to think smart and think big about the future of rail in America, and we are taking full advantage of the resources we have to advance world-class passenger rail services nationwide,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “Today’s announcement is another step forward as we advance transformative projects that will carry Americans for decades to come and provide them with convenient, climate-friendly alternatives to congested roads and airports. We’re thinking about the future too with comprehensive and systematic planning efforts to transform the U.S. intercity passenger rail network now and in the years to come.”

Here’s the FRA list of the Step 1 recipients broken down by service type:

New High-Speed Rail:

  • Amtrak Texas High-Speed Rail Corridor

Dallas – Houston 

  • Brightline West High-Speed Corridor

Rancho Cucamonga, California, to Las Vegas, NV

  • California High-Speed Rail Phase 1 Corridor 

San Francisco – Los Angeles/Anaheim, California

  • Cascadia High-Speed Ground Transportation 

Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada – Portland, Oregon

  • Charlotte, North Carolina, to Atlanta, Georgia
  • Fort Worth to Houston High-Speed Rail Corridor

Sponsored by the North Central Texas Council of Governments

  • High Desert Intercity High-Speed Rail Corridor

Victor Valley to Palmdale, California, connecting the Brightline West and California High-Speed Rail lines

New Conventional Rail Corridors:

  • Asheville to Salisbury, North Carolina
  • Atlanta to Savannah, Georgia
  • Atlanta, Ga. – Chattanooga – Nashville – Memphis, Tennessee
  • Baton Rouge – New Orleans, Louisiana

Will use CPKC line as previously reported in R&R

  • Boston, Massachusetts – Springfield, Mass – Albany, New York
  • Central Coast Corridor

Increase train frequency between San Jose – San Luis Obispo, Calif.

  • Charlotte to Kings Mountain, North Carolina
  • Chicago, Illinois to Quad Cities, Iowa/Ill. Service Extension
  • Chicago – Fort Wayne, Indiana – Columbus, Ohio – Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Cleveland – Columbus – Dayton – Cincinnati, O. (3C&D Corridor)
  • Cleveland – Toledo, O. – Detroit, Michigan
  • Coachella Valley Rail Corridor

Los Angeles – Coachella, Calif.

  • Colorado Front Range

Fort Collins to Pueblo, Colo.

  • Commonwealth Corridor

Newport News – Richmond – Charlottesville – New River Valley, Virginia

  • Diamond State Line

Northern Delaware (Newark or Wilmington) – Eastern Maryland (Salisbury or Berlin) via Dover, Del.

  • Eau Claire, Wisconsin – Twin Cities, Minnesota
  • Fayetteville – Raleigh, North Carolina
  • Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Service

New Orleans, La. – Mobile, Alabama, (Already planning 2024 service startup)

  • Houston – San Antonio, Tx.
  • I-20 Corridor

Dallas, Tx. – Meridian, Mississippi

  • Jacksonville – Orlando – Miami, Florida
  • Louisville, Kentucky – Indianapolis, Ind.
  • Miami – Orlando – Tampa, Fla.
  • Milwaukee – Madison – Eau Claire, Wis. – Twin Cities, Minn.
  • North Coast Hiawatha

Chicago – Twin Cities, Bismarck, North Dakota – Billings, Montana – Missoula – Sandpoint, Idaho – Seattle or Portland. This is a service reinstatement of the pre-1980 Amtrak train. 

  • Northern Lights Express

Minneapolis – Duluth, Minn.

  • Peoria – Ottawa – Chicago, Ill.
  • Phoenix (Buckeye) – Tucson, Arizona

Reinstate service over the former SP mainline.

  • Reading – Philadelphia, Pa. – New York 

Uses existing alignment via Pottstown, Pa.

  • Scranton, Pa. –  New York Penn Station

Route to operate via Mt. Pocono, Pa. and Newark, New Jersey.

  • Texas Triangle: Dallas – Fort Worth – Corsicana – College Station – Houston 
  • Twin Cities – Milwaukee – Chicago (TCMC)

This adds an additional train between the endpoints (the Empire Builder is the current train).

  • Wilmington – Raleigh, North Carolina

Existing Routes with Extensions

  • Amtrak to Long Island, New York

Extend three Northeast Regional trains from Washington, D.C., to Ronkonkoma.

  • Capitol Corridor

Enhance existing Capitol Corridor trains between San Jose and Auburn with an extension to San Francisco, Salinas, and Novato, and east to Reno/Sparks, Nevada.

  • Downeaster Corridor

Enhancements to existing Brunswick – Portland, Maine – Boston, Mass. corridor, plus an extension to Rockland, Me.

  • Green Mountain Corridor

New York – Burlington, Vt. via Albany, New York, and Rutland

  • Hannibal, Missouri, Extension of Existing Chicago – Quincy, Ill. Corridor
  • Heartland Flyer Extension

Extends the route north from Oklahoma City to Wichita and Newton, Kansas.

  • Kansas City – St. Joseph, Mo.
  • Los Angeles – San Diego – San Luis Obispo, Calif. (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor

Enhance the existing Pacific Surfliner, plus extend south from San Diego to San Ysidro on the Mexican border.

  • Chicago – Milwaukee – Green Bay Hiawatha Service Extension
  • San Joaquin Valley Corridor

Enhance current San Joaquin service plus add an extension to Redding, Calif.

  • Vermonter Corridor

Enhancements to current service including service frequency and extension to Montreal, Quebec

  • Washington, D.C. – Roanoke – Bristol, Va.
  • Wolverine Corridor

Extend Chicago – Detroit/Pontiac, Michigan service to Windsor, Ontario.

Improvements to Existing Amtrak Routes

  • Adirondack Corridor

Enhancements include a new Customs preclearance facility in Montreal

  • Amtrak Cascades Corridor

Infrastructure and frequency improvements between Eugene, Ore. and Vancouver, British Columbia.

  • Anchorage North & South Corridor

Enhances Alaska Railroad’s passenger services with new frequencies, reduced travel times, and improved reliability.

  • Charlotte, North Carolina – Washington, D.C., Corridor

Extensive upgrades to Carolinan service including reconstruction of the abandoned Raleigh, NC, – Petersburg trackage.

  • Chicago – Carbondale, Ill. Corridor

Enhancements to reliability and travel times.

  • Chicago – Grand Rapids, Mich. Corridor

Enhancements include new frequencies and improving reliability.

  • Chicago to Port Huron, Mich. Corridor

Enhancements include new frequencies and improving reliability.

  • Chicago to St. Louis Higher-Speed Rail Corridor

Improvements to the Lincoln service trains include improving travel times and reliability.

  • Amtrak Cardinal – Daily Service (up from thrice weekly)
  • Amtrak Sunset Limited – Daily Service (up from thrice weekly)
  • Empire Corridor, New York – Niagara Falls

Enhancements include adding frequencies, reducing travel time and improving reliability.

  • Hartford Line Corridor

Improve existing Amtrak and CTRail corridor by restoring and improving existing infrastructure for more capacity for future service expansion.

  • Indianapolis – Chicago Corridor 

Improvements include improving travel times and reliability, as well as more trains.

  • Keystone Corridor: Pittsburgh to Philadelphia

Enhancements include improving travel times and reliability, as well as more frequencies including another Pittsburgh – Harrisburg round trip.

  • Milwaukee – Chicago Hiawatha Service Expansion

Adds new train frequencies

In addition to these CID grants, the FRA announced $8.2 billion in funding in its Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail (FSP-National) program for larger capital projects. These projects are receiving funding to reduce the state of good repair backlog, improve performance, or expand or establish new intercity passenger rail service for projects not located on the Northeast Corridor (NEC). Several of the projects have been previously discussed in this column.

Here’s the list with the awarded funds (amounts shown are the maximum grant): 

  • Alaska Railroad Milepost 190.5 Bridge Replacement – $8.2 million
  • California Inaugural High-Speed Rail Service Project – $3.073 billion
  • Chicago Union Station (CUS) Mail Platform Reactivation Project – $49.6 million

Turns the unused mail platform into a passenger platform for added capacity.

  • CUS Platform Capacity Expansion and Trainshed Ventilation Improvements – $44 million
  • Downeaster Corridor Track Improvements – $27.49 million
  • Malta, Montana, Corridor Operational Enhancement Project – $14.9 million
  • Brightline West (Los Angeles – Las Vegas)High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail System – $3 billion
  • Raleigh, NC to Richmond, Va. (R2R) Innovating Rail Program – Phases IA and II – $1.095 million
  • Pennsylvanian Rail Modernization Project – $143.6 million
  • Transforming Rail in Virginia Phase 2 Project – $729 million

This article was posted on: December 11, 2023