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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

FRA unveils full list of 2020 CRISI grants


The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday released its full list of 50 projects in 29 states granted funding under the fiscal-year 2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program. 

The $320.6 million worth of projects selected include a wide variety of railroad investments that improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of freight and intercity passenger service, FRA officials said in a press release.

This year, the program expanded beyond supporting traditional infrastructure and safety improvements and into research and workforce development projects that help the future of the rail industry, FRA Deputy Administrator Quintin Kendall said during a media call yesterday.

The program also drew first-time short line applicants, and an excursion railroad — Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad in Colorado — was awarded a grant for the first time in program history. 

Rural projects received over 62 percent of the funds, with 29 grants totaling $152 million designated for short line or regional railroad projects. 

“The bread and butter of this program is investing in upgrading Class II and Class III railroads, the one that connects rural communities and their manufacturing and agricultural plants into the broader U.S. economy,” Kendall said.

Federal lawmakers have announced several CRISI grant awards to their states and districts in recent days. Among larger projects' CRISI awards yet to be announced include:

  • Up to $31.8 million to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation to fund six infrastructure improvements in Wisconsin and Minnesota on Canadian Pacific’s Soo Line serving Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota, to add the first state-supported intercity passenger rail frequency between the Twin Cities and Milwaukee to contribute to an eighth round-trip on Amtrak’s Hiawatha service between Milwaukee and Chicago.
  • Up to $15.6 million to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for trespass prevention and pedestrian safety enhancements along the Michigan Line accelerated rail corridor. The grant will help MDOT build fencing to prevent trespassing and provide other safety enhancements at select grade crossings in high foot traffic areas along the MDOT-owned segment between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Railway trains operate on the line.   
  • Up to $5.6 million to Amtrak to stabilize and rehabilitate the line along the Amtrak Southwest Chief's route in Colorado and New Mexico. 

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. The act authorized the program for four years beginning in 2017. This year’s program is the last round, but Kendall said he anticipates another one-year allocation extension.

The FRA has worked to improve the program’s award process, he said. In the program's first year, it took the FRA 14 months to issue 49 awards. This year, it took five months to issue 101 awards, a record number of applicants for the program, Kendall said.

The program garnered the most applicants in program history, despite the notice of funding for this round of grants being announced in April during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A list of all projects receiving FY2020 CRISI grants can be viewed here.


Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/24/2020