Federal Railroad Administration awards funds to the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has awarded a $297,000 grant to the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative (MWRRI) to continue rail corridor planning, which may lead to the development of several high-speed rail corridors. MWRRI is a 3,000-mile system providing improved intercity passenger rail service that serves nine states with a combined population of 60 million people, using Chicago as a regional hub. The MWRRI member states will match the $297,000 grant.

The project includes an alternative routes analysis; system cost updates; equipment, train control and operational plans; and the preparation of public outreach materials. Corridors include Chicago-Porter, Chicago-Toledo-Cleveland, Chicago-Indianapolis-Cincinnati, Chicago-Champaign-Carbondale, St. Louis-Jefferson City-Kansas City, Chicago-Quincy/Des Moines-Omaha, and Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis/St. Paul-Green Bay.

The grant is made under FRA's FY 2008 Capital Assistance to States: Intercity Passenger Rail Service Program. This is a separate authority from the grants for high-speed rail under the Recovery Act (ARRA). Guidance for competitive grants under the new authority is still under development.

Amtrak announces $383.5 million in Capital Grant awards

Under the ARRA, the FRA must award $1,300,000,000 in Recovery Act funds to Amtrak for capital grants in support of intercity railroad passenger services. Priority uses for the non-security funding include projects for the repair, rehabilitation, or upgrade of railroad assets or infrastructure, and for capital projects that expand passenger rail capacity, including the rehabilitation of rolling stock. In March, the FRA and Amtrak formally entered a grant agreement that incorporates Recovery Act requirements. The FRA and Amtrak have subsequently announced $383.5 million of grant awards.

Projects to be funded with stimulus dollars include:

  • Replacing the 102-year-old Niantic River Bridge, a project that has been delayed more than 20 years because of a lack of capital funding ($105 million);
  • Rehabilitating and returning to service 68 passenger cars ($82 million);
  • Repairing facilities nationwide, such as roof replacements, plumbing repairs, and heating and air conditioning improvements ($105 million);
  • Restoring the Wilmington, DE, station ($21 million);
  • Rehabbing the Lamokin frequency converters in Chester, PA ($63 million);
  • Constructing a new station for the Auto Train in Sanford, FL ($10.5 million); and
  • Installing positive train control between Porter, Indiana, and Kalamazoo, Michigan, and between New York City and Washington, D.C. ($60 million).  

With the installation of Positive Train Control (PTC) on the Amtrak-owned Michigan Line and the south-end of the Northeast Corridor (New York to Washington), Amtrak will invest the $60 million in advanced signaling technology that can prevent train-to-train collisions, over-speed derailments, train incursions into roadway work zones, and movement over switches improperly lined. The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 mandates installation of PTC by 2015 on all routes used by intercity passenger trains. The Recovery Act funding will allow for the acceleration of the installation of PTC on lines owned by Amtrak, and create immediate safety benefits. The technology also creates potential trip-time reductions, since the advanced signaling system will allow for increased speeds.