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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Federal funding flows for passenger-rail projects

The Nevada DOT received a $3 billion federal grant to help fund Brightline West, a proposed high-speed rail route between Las Vegas and Southern California.
Photo – Brightline West


By Julie Sneider, Senior Editor

The year ended on a very high note for the U.S. passenger-rail industry. Last month, the Federal Railroad Administration announced $8.2 billion in grant awards for projects nationwide and advanced passenger-rail corridor planning activities that will impact every region across the country.

The 10 projects that will receive grant funding under the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program will advance two high-speed rail (HSR) corridors and fund improvements to existing corridors for expanded service and performance, FRA officials said in a press release.

Those projects will:

  • help deliver HSR service in California’s Central Valley;
  • create a new HSR corridor between Las Vegas and Southern California, serving an estimated 11 million passengers annually;
  • make major upgrades to existing conventional rail corridors to better connect northern Virginia and the Southeast with the Northeast Corridor (NEC);
  • expand and add frequencies to the Pennsylvania Keystone Corridor between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh;
  • extend the Piedmont Corridor in North Carolina as part of a higher-speed connection between Raleigh and Richmond, Virginia;
  • invest in Chicago Union Station as an initial step toward future improvements to the critical Midwest corridors hub; and
  • improve service in Maine, Montana and Alaska.

Calling out new corridors

Also last month, the FRA announced it selected 69 passenger-rail corridors in 44 states through the new Corridor Identification and Development Program, which was created by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) of 2021. The corridors were awarded up to $500,000 for additional study and planning for new or expanded passenger-rail service.

The first round of selections targets upgrades to 15 existing rail routes, service additions or extensions on 47 new routes and the advancement of seven new HSR projects, FRA officials said. The corridors also will help create a pipeline of intercity passenger-rail projects that are ready for development and future funding.

The IIJA “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.

The grant awards and Corridor ID study funding followed President Biden’s Nov. 6 announcement of $16.4 billion in funding for 25 passenger-rail projects designed to improve critical infrastructure on Amtrak’s NEC. That award included nearly $10 billion for Amtrak to modernize infrastructure, improve stations and support future ridership growth on the NEC.

“I’ve been talking about this for a long time, I know. But finally — finally — we’re getting it done,” said Biden, a longtime Amtrak rider. Biden made the funding announcement after riding an Amtrak train from Washington, D.C., to a train maintenance facility in Delaware.

Among the 12 Amtrak projects that received funding through the Fed-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger-Rail Northeast Corridor Program is the Federick Douglass Tunnel in Baltimore. That project — which received a $4.7 billion grant — calls for replacing the existing 150-year-old B&P Tunnel, a major chokepoint on the NEC network.

Signed into law in 2021, the IIJA called for an unprecedented $66 billion in new funding for Amtrak and passenger-rail systems.

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