FRA awards $32 million CRISI grants to northeast rails

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has selected 50 projects in 29 states to receive competitive grant funding under the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program.  The projects selected include a wide variety of railroad investments that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of freight and intercity passenger service.

“This $320.6 million federal investment will upgrade U.S. rail infrastructure and enhance rail safety in communities across America,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.
Nine of the projects were selected to specifically address safety at highway-rail grade crossings, and deter illegal trespassing, which is the leading cause of rail-related deaths in America.  Other projects expand, upgrade, or rehabilitate railroad track, switches, yard, and station facilities to increase performance and service delivery.

“We remain committed to helping address pressing transportation capital needs, particularly in rural areas,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory. “I am pleased that so many high-quality applications were submitted for worthwhile investments by the FRA,” Batory added.

The Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act authorized the CRISI Program to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of intercity passenger and freight rail systems. Rural projects, which have a minimum 25 percent funding requirement under the CRISI Program, received over 60 percent of the funds. Of the 50 projects that were awarded grants, 32 are located in Opportunity Zones, which were created to revitalize economically distressed communities using private investments. Since 2017, this Administration has awarded over $1.2 billion through the CRISI program to improve rail infrastructure.

The Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) soliciting applications for this round of CRISI Program grant funding was published in the Federal Register on April 20, 2020.  FRA subsequently provided web-based training and technical assistance for eligible applicants.

In New England:

Maine – Pine Tree Corridor 286K Capacity and Safety Improvements (Multiple Opportunity Zones)

Up to $16,876,760 Springfield Terminal Railway Company (a subsidiary of Pan Am Railways)

Replaces approximately 75 miles of rail, installs approximately 55,000 ties, upgrades approximately 72 grade crossings, and strengthens approximately five bridges in central Maine between Waterville and north to Mattawamkeag. These investments will improve the 110-mile rail corridor while allowing faster speeds (from 10 to 25 miles per hour) and increasing the ability to accommodate 286,000-pound cars on the rail line.

Massachusetts – Pioneer Valley Bridge Strike Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Safety Project

Up to $1,797,114

Pioneer Valley Railroad

Replaces the 103-year-old East Mountain Road Bridge on the Pioneer Valley Railroad’s (PVRR) mainline in Hampden County, Massachusetts. The project will install beams, signage, and warning lights to reduce vehicular impacts, as well as replace approximately 10,000 feet of rail and ties along the Easthampton Branch, and surface approximately 10.5 miles of track on either side of the bridge. With six reported strikes since May 2017, PVRR predicts that the bridge will be out of service by 2023 due to repeated and future strikes.

New Hampshire – New Hampshire Northcoast Infrastructure Project (Multiple Opportunity Zones)

Up to $4,562,905

New Hampshire Northcoast Railroad

Comprises four components along the New Hampshire Northcoast’s (NHN) Railroad mainline between Ossipee and Rollinsford, New Hampshire, and Eastern Propane Gas’s (EPG) property in North Rochester, New Hampshire. The first component replaces approximately 20,000 ties and replaces four miles of continuous welded rail and associated ballast work; the second equips one locomotive with positive train control (PTC) and three locomotives with Cab Signal Systems; the third upgrades two grade crossings; and the fourth builds two rail spurs, one at the EPG facility and the other along the NHN mainline.

A full list of projects selected for FY 2020 CRISI funding can be viewed here.