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FRA welcomes intercity passenger-rail grant program, releases draft environmental study for New Jersey bridge project

The federal government has created a funding program under which states will be directly eligible for federal dollars to support intercity passenger-rail service.

Unveiled today by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the $30 million capital grant program will require a 50 percent funding match. Eligible projects include, but are not limited to, upgrading track to increase train speeds, adding or lengthening passing tracks to increase capacity, upgrading switches and signal systems to improve reliability and safety, and purchasing new passenger-rail cars.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which will administer the grants, will favor projects designed to improve on-time performance to 80 percent or higher, reduce travel times, increase service frequency or enhance service quality, the USDOT said.

“Rail passengers demand improved service and quality, and this grant program will allow states to address these concerns,” said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Boardman in a prepared statement.

Individual states or multiple states working together can submit applications, which the FRA will begin accepting on March 18. The agency expects to start awarding funds later this year.

Meanwhile, the FRA issued a Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Portal Bridge Capacity Enhancement Project, which calls for replacing the 100-year-old, double-track bridge over the Hackensack River between Secaucus and Kearny, N.J.

The study evaluates the environmental, social and economic impacts of four alternatives, plus a “no action” option for the double-track bridge. Nearly 500 Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains operate over the bridge each weekday, and the agencies expect to increase operations in the future.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 2/19/2008