Passenger and freight rail projects in 32 states, including FL, get millions from U.S. DOT

FL has a railroad project across North Florida and a Tampa to Orlando high-speed intercity passenger rail project

By: - June 2, 2022 12:09 pm

Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, having been sworn in on February 3, 2021. Credit: U.S. Department of Transportation.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. government is doling out millions of dollars to railroad projects throughout the country in hopes of improving supply chains and passenger rail service.

The announcement by the Biden administration of $368 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements will go to more than 46 projects designed to improve safety and broaden the nation’s rail infrastructure.

“Passenger rail represents an affordable way for millions of Americans to travel between cities for work, to visit families and more, while freight rail helps to get essential goods to our store shelves with lower costs and a lower carbon footprint than most other modes of transportation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

“And yet we’re seeing our rail industry today struggling,” he continued.

Railroads have become congested when cargo moves from shipyards to trains, leading to “higher costs and longer delays for Americans and for businesses,” Buttigieg said.

Rural communities

The grants will go to projects in 32 states, with nearly double the 25% minimum investment going to rural communities, according to Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration Amit Bose.

The rural projects, Bose said, include up to $8.3 million for a Florida Panhandle Rural Capacity Expansion Project, “which will allow the Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railroad to move critical goods in rural areas.”

According to a synopsis from the Federal Railroad Administration, “The proposed project will replace approximately 70,000 ties, install approximately 14,300 new ties, rehabilitate 11 sidings, and makes repairs to 60 grade crossings between Jacksonville and Pensacola, Florida,” among other elements.

Interstate 4. Credit: Wikipedia.

In the Tampa Bay and Orlando area, the agency includes up to $15,875,000 for the Tampa to Orlando High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Project and Brightline Trains Florida, LLC.

“The proposed project will advance preliminary engineering activities to support Phase III of the Brightline system, a 67-mile extension from Orlando to Tampa mostly within the right-of-way of I-4 in in Central Florida. Brightline currently operates from Miami to West Palm Beach (Phase I) and the West Palm Beach to Orlando segment (Phase II) is currently under construction,” according to a synopsis.

“The full build out of the Phase III extension would provide an alternative for travelers on an overburdened state highway system and is projected to reduce the number of vehicle miles traveled along I-4…Brightline, a privately-owned intercity passenger service provider, will provide a 50 percent match.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation would get $6.2 million to upgrade “18 miles of rail in rural areas which is going to allow for heavier loads, more reliable service and safer working conditions,” Buttigieg said.

A total of $57.9 million, Buttigieg said, would go towards “supporting surveys and preliminary engineering to lay the groundwork for new intercity passenger rail from Raleigh to Richmond and providing better service for underserved and minority rural communities.”

Morgan State University, a Historically Black College and University in Baltimore, will receive $4.6 million to create a railroad engineering program that’s expected to be modeled after the University of Delaware’s railroad engineering program.

Another project of about $11 million would upgrade the Cimarron Valley Railroad in southwest Kansas that will “help agricultural and biodiesel producers move more goods more quickly.”

More to come in 2023

The federal railroad grant program, sometimes shortened to CRISI, will expand next year to provide $1 billion in grants under the bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress approved last year.

“That’s going to allow us to fund even more projects like these, because I can tell you we saw more good applications in this round of the program than we were able to support,” Buttigieg said. “As we do that, we will be creating jobs, reducing delays and enhancing the movement of people and goods across the country.”

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.