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Rail News: Passenger Rail

Transit agencies score billions in omnibus bill

Amtrak received $2.5 billion from congressional appropriations passed late last month, including $1.3 billion for projects on the Northeast Corridor. 
Photo – AJ Packer/


By Grace Renderman, Associate Editor

Congress’ omnibus appropriations bill that passed late last month includes billions for transit and passenger rail — $21.2 billion and $16.6 billion, respectively.

The House and Senate appropriations committees approved federal funding for fiscal-year 2023 that includes an increase of $704 million over funding for transit in FY2022, American Public Transportation Association officials said in a press release. Passenger rail also received $69 million more year over year.

The funding is a combination of dollars from the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act and advance appropriations from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in late 2021.

Investments in Amtrak, FTA grant programs

The largest items in the bill include $4.2 billion for Capital Investment Grants (CIG) administered by the Federal Transit Administration; $2.5 billion in grants to Amtrak; and $560 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grants, which also fund freight-rail projects, APTA officials said.

About $25 million in CRISI grants is reserved for specific commuter-rail projects that implement or sustain positive train control systems.

The CIG program’s appropriations include $1.8 billion for the New Starts program, which helps fund new or extended fixed transit systems; $415 million for the Small Starts and Expedited Project Delivery programs; and $425 million for projects with existing full funding grant agreements.

About half of Amtrak funds — $1.3 billion — will go toward projects on the Northeast Corridor, while the remaining $1.2 billion will go toward grants for projects on the railroad’s national network, APTA officials said.

Additionally, $800 million will go to Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) grants, $25 million more than FY2022; and $100 million for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail grant program. RAISE grants are issued for freight- and passenger-rail projects, amid other transportation-related projects.

FTA emergency relief program gets a boost

The bill also allocates $214 million to the FTA’s Public Transportation Emergency Relief Program, which will provide funding to transit agencies that experienced disasters in calendar years 2017, 2020, 2021 and 2022, APTA officials said.

Transit agencies can use the funds for pandemic recovery-related purposes since the FTA made that change in March 2020, so long as the transit agency is in a state where the governor declared a state of emergency due to the pandemic, according to the FTA website.

The program helps states and public transportation systems pay for protecting, repairing or replacing equipment and facilities that may have been seriously damaged as the result of an emergency, such as a natural disaster.

The program can also cover the costs of evacuation, rescue operations, temporary public transportation service and the expansion or relocation of service related to an emergency.

APTA advocated for more funding for the emergency relief program. The bill overall grants federal dollars that American transit agencies “desperately need,” said APTA President and CEO Paul Skoutelas.

“These … investments will enable our communities to provide access to opportunities and create family wage jobs, advance equity, tackle climate change and meet growing and evolving mobility demands,” Skoutelas said.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 1/19/2023