Posts Tagged ‘Federal Railroad Administration’

FRA Clears New Bridge in Albany, NY, to Move to Final Design Phase

December 29, 2022

Replacement of a bridge in Albany, New York, used by Amtrak will advance to the final design phase after winning approval from the Federal Railroad Administration.

The bridge is owned by CSX but leased to Amtrak, which uses it for its Lake Shore Limited and Empire Service trains.

The FRA determined that replacement of the Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge would have “no significant impact” on the environment.

The movable swing bridge over the Hudson River was built in the 19th century and has a top speed of 15 miles per hour.

New York State Department of Transportation officials said the new bridge will be a lift structure with two tracks on a parallel alignment.

As part of the project changes will be made to the triangular ju8nction of tracks on the Rensselaer side of the river to help facilitate train turning movements.

Officials said the new bridge will better serve maritime traffic and provide pedestrians and bicyclists with access across the river.

FRA Has NEC Capital Funding Available

December 29, 2022

Funding is being made available for capital projects in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity that said the agency has $9 billion to devote to upgrading and expanding passenger rail service along the Northeast Corridor.

The funds are being channeled through a Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Grant Program administered by the Federal Railroad Administration.

The FRA said in the funding notice that it “will fund projects of national and regional significance; improving infrastructure; equipment; and facilities, including bridges and tunnels, rail stations and track.”

The agency defined the Northeast Corridor as extending from Boston to Washington. Intercity and commuter rail service in the corridor currently hosts 200 million annual trips.

The FRA said this makes the NEC one of the highest-volume rail lines in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the nation’s GDP.

According to the FRA, the number of Americans using NEC trains is now approaching pre-pandemic levels, with Amtrak ridership alone more than doubling in the past 12 months to 9.2 million passengers annually.

The partnership program has already begun funding such projects as new bridges over the Susquehanna River in Maryland, the Connecticut River in Connecticut, and the Portal Bridge in New Jersey,

Amtrak to Get $2.45B in Spending Bill

December 23, 2022

An omnibus budget bill working its way through Congress contains $106 billion in federal transportation funding for fiscal year 2023, which began on Oct. 1.

The $1.7 trillion spending bill was approved by the Senate on Thursday with House approval expected to come on Friday.

The transportation budget includes increased funding for Amtrak and public transit agencies.

Amtrak is to receive $2.45 billion, which is $121.6 million above what the passenger carrier was granted in fiscal year 2022.

However, it also is short of the $3 billion requested by the Biden Administration and less than the $3.3 billion requested by Amtrak.

The Amtrak funding breaks down to $1.26 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $1.19 billion for the national network.

The legislation says that up to $66 million can be used to support planning, capital costs, and operating assistance for projects included in the Corridor Identification Program.

The latter is a program stemming from the 2021 Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.  That money can be used to develop new intercity rail passenger routes and/or to improve service on existing passenger rail routes.

An analysis published on the website of the Rail Passengers Association said that Amtrak may face a squeeze from trying to do too much with the funding provided for the national network.

RPA noted that the passenger carrier is having a difficult time getting all of its pre-pandemic service back in service as well as hiring additional personnel. That might not leave much funding to develop new services.

Congress also banned Amtrak from using its operating grant to discontinue, reduce the frequency of, suspend, or substantially alter the route of any long-distance route except in the case of an emergency or a planned maintenance outage.

The Federal Railroad Administration will receive $1.05 billion. That is broken down to $44 million for railroad research and development; $100 million for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Rail grant program; and $560 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program.

The legislation specifies that at least $150 million in CRISI grants shall be used for development of new passenger rail corridors.

Other FRA spending earmarks included $25 million for the development and implementation of measures to prevent trespassing; $5 million for maglev; $30.4 million for Congressionally directed spending; and $5 million for workforce development training.

The Federal Transit Administration was allocated $16 billion of which $13.6 billion is to be used for Transit Formula Grants to address transit state of good repair; and $2.6 billion for Capital Investment Grants to create new transit routes nationwide.

The latter is a $387 million increase above fiscal year 2022 funding.

CRISI grants may be used to fund commuter rail projects, authorizing the transfer of funds by the USDOT to the appropriate agencies to be administered under public transportation laws.

FRA Seeking Passenger Rail Proposals

December 21, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration this week issued a Notice of Solicitation and Funding Opportunity for intercity passenger rail corridor development.

The program is funded by $1.8 billion from the Infrastructure Improvement and Jobs Act.

The FRA began last May accepting expressions of interest by those interested in participating in the corridor development program.

In a news release, the FRA said the Corridor ID Program will be used to determine which passenger corridors will receive funding.

The corridors could establish new intercity passenger rail service or improve existing service.

Formal project proposals must be submitted to the FRA by March 20, 2023.

Amtrak Wants to Remove Some Block Signals From its Keystone Corridor in Pennsylvania

December 9, 2022

Amtrak is seeking regulatory approval to remove automatic wayside block signals on its line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

In a notice published in the Federal Register, the Federal Railroad Administration said the passenger carrier cited the existence of a positive train control system on the route as providing enough protection for train operations.

The signals to be removed serve as distant signals to existing interlockings in the Keystone Corridor.

The FRA notice said the territory covered by the waiver being sought extends from Park Interlocking at milepost 46.3 and Roy Interlocking at MP 94.3.

 “In its petition, Amtrak explains that formerly, the automatic wayside signals served as distant signals to the existing interlockings. However, as Amtrak has fully implemented PTC, which imposes ‘updated standards for cab, no-wayside signal territory to remove all automatic signals[,] including distant signals,’ Amtrak seeks permission to remove 10 signals (at MPs 55.3, 59.2, 64.5, 66.1, 70.8, 71.8, 81.5, 86.0, 92.3, and 96.4). Amtrak states that the removal of the signals will ‘eliminate maintenance and operation of unnecessary hardware [that is] no longer needed.’” The FRA notice said.\

Amtrak owns the line although some Norfolk Southern freight trains also use it.

The notice said NORAC Rules will remain in effect and there “will be no changes to operating practices because of this modification.”

Amtrak told regulators the cab signal system without fixed automatic block signals and positive train control systems will continue to enforce train speed and positive train stops under normal operations.

If the cab signal system fails, PTC will continue to prevent train-to-train collisions through enforcement of positive train stop at interlocking signals when all tracks are not clear to the next interlocking with a permissive signal, Amtrak said.

In the event of a PTC failure, the cab control system will continue to enforce restricted speed in approach to occupied blocks and stop signals. If both system fails, trains must follow the operating rules currently in place.

Amtrak said it would start removing the signals upon receiving FRA approval, a project expected to take up to two years.

The FRA said in its notice that it does not anticipate scheduling a public hearing “since the facts do not appear to warrant a hearing.”

FRA Taking Bids for Passenger Rail Funding

December 9, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration said this week that it is taking applications for $2.3 billion for intercity passenger rail projects.

The grants are available for projects such as fixing track, structures, and grade crossings.

An FRA news release said funding provided by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act  “greatly expands the scope, funding and vision” of its partnership program.”

Aside from infrastructure related projects, grants are available for the development of new intercity passenger and high-speed rail services.

Eligible applicants include a state; a group of states; an Interstate Compact; a public agency or publicly chartered authority established by one or more states; a political subdivision of a state; Amtrak, acting on its own behalf or under a cooperative agreement with one or more states; a federally recognized Indian Tribe; or any combination of these entities.

The federal share of eligible projects must not exceed 80 percent of the project cost.

The remaining 20 percent must be made up of funding provided by state and local government, and/or private sector entities.

NEC Susquehanna River Bridge Replacement Advancing

November 29, 2022

Two contracts are expected to be awarded next year for replacement of the Susquehanna River bridge on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor.

Plans calls for building a pair of two-track fixed bridges that will replace the existing movable bridge.

An Amtrak news release said the project also involves realigning five miles of track. The project is expected to cost $1.5 billion and involves the passenger carrier, the Maryland Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration.

The current bridge handled more than 110 trains a day for Amtrak, MARC and Norfolk Southern. It is the longest moveable bridge in the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak said it will issue several key solicitations, including construction manager at risk for the construction of the new bridges and a design-bid-build contract for enabling works.

FRA Administrator Amit Bose said federal funding for the project is expected to come from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

MDOT has committed $3 million toward a design grant that was recently awarded. Amtrak and MDOT are in discussions about jointly pursuing additional grant funding for the cost of construction under the Federal State Partnership Program.

The current bridge was built by the Pennsylvania Railroad and remains safe but Amtrak said it is a “significant bottleneck on the Northeast Corridor,” said Laura Mason, Amtrak executive vice president of capital delivery.

Want New Rail Service? Put Up Some Money

November 19, 2022

Federal Railroad Administrator head Amit Bose said this week that intercity passenger rail corridor development funding will most likely be awarded to entities that are committed to supporting the service.

The FRA will be disbursing $44 billion for corridor development that was part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act adopted last year.

Bose spoke in Indianapolis this week to a meeting of the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Commission.

He told meeting attendees that “the corridor development programs must be presented by committed state and local stakeholders as well as regional bodies like this one [MIPRC], so your role as a coordinating entity is as important as ever.”

By that Bose meant an entity wanting to see the development of a rail corridor must be willing to provide financial and political support.

Also speaking at the meeting, Wynne Davis, FRA deputy director of the agency’s Outreach office, who said the initial level of federal funding may be modest initially but will grow as corridors advance through the corridor development program.

A first step in that process is an expression of interest in developing one or more passenger rail corridors.

That expression of interest is non-binding but must be followed up with financial and political commitments. That will mean state and local funding to match federal grants.

FRA Sets Priorites for NEC Projects

November 17, 2022

A “project inventory” released this week by the Federal Railroad Administration for Northeast Corridor projects focuses largely on efforts to improve and develop commuter and intercity rail service.

The FRA this week released its priorities for funding projects between Boston and Washington. The list will guide release of up to $24 billion in funding that FRA is investing in NEC intercity passenger-rail service through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program, FRA officials said in a news release.

Some of the funding the FRA will disburse comes from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

FRA’s inventory list includes 68 projects divided into 15 major backlog projects and 53 capital renewal, stations and improvement projects.

Inclusion on the list is critical for receiving federal funding because a project must be in the NEC project inventory to be eligible for partnership program funding.

Ohio Mayors, Planning Agencies Want Corridors Added to FRA Corridor Development List

November 3, 2022

Several Ohio mayors and regional planning agencies have asked the Federal Railroad Administration to include 10 corridors in Ohio for use as potential rail passenger routes.

A news release issued by All Aboard Ohio, a rail passenger and public transit advocacy group, said the corridors would be listed on the FRA’s Corridor Identification Program. 

The news release said the “expression of interest” by the mayors and planning agencies was important because they are eligible to apply for FRA grants to develop these corridors for passenger service.

Some of the corridors have no intercity rail passenger service while others include segments served by existing Amtrak long-distance trains.

The Amtrak Connects Us plan released last year identifies several corridor serving Ohio that could see new or additional Amtrak service subject to funding availability.

The Ohio Rail Development Commission is currently undertaking a study of rail corridors in Ohio to determine what infrastructure needs are for passenger service and the estimated service development costs.

Any state funding for rail passenger service development in Ohio would need approval of the Ohio General Assembly.

The AAO news release noted that usually FRA grants require a 20 percent state match.

The release said the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 allows regional planning agencies, city and county governments, private sector partners and state government entities to provide t hose matching funds. The corridors that the planning agencies and mayors are seeking to have included on the FRA corridor list include: 

•    Cleveland-Columbus-Dayton-Cincinnati
•    Chicago-Fort Wayne-Lima-Columbus-Pittsburgh
•    Detroit-Toledo-Columbus
•    Columbus-Lancaster-Logan-Athens
•    Columbus-Chillicothe-Portsmouth-Northern Kentucky
•    Cleveland-Elyria-Sandusky-Toledo-Bryan-Chicago
•    Cleveland-Toledo-Detroit
•    Cleveland-Buffalo-Rochester-New York City
•    Cleveland-Pittsburgh-Philadelphia-New York City
•    Cleveland-Washington