Posts Tagged ‘U.S. Department of Transportation’

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,

USDOT Awarded Amtrak $4.3B This Fall

December 2, 2022

Amtrak was awarded $4.3 billion this fall by the U.S. Department of Transportation, which the agency described as “unprecedented funding.”

The funds are being used to modernize Amtrak rolling stock and stations. The latter largely involves bringing Amtrak stations into compliance with access standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

USDOT said much of the funding is coming from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act., which the agency said will allocate to Amtrak $22 billion over a five-year period. That legislation was approved in November 2021.

That money, USDOT said, will be used to bring 280 stations into compliance with the ADA and replace a fleet of 1,000 rail cars and locomotives.

Some of the new equipment is entering service this year and more than 525 new rail cars and locomotives will begin service by the end of the decade.

The USDOT news release said some funding will be used to work down an infrastructure maintenance backlog and to invest in modern technology systems.

Grants to Benefit Amtrak Route Infrastructure

August 22, 2022

The Federal Railroad Administration announced last week that it has awarded more than $233 million in grants for infrastructure improvements to Amtrak routes.

The funding came from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program.

Most of the projects are located along the Northeast Corridor, but funding also will pay for projects in Michigan and California.

In the Northeast Corridor, a grant will provide $65.2 million for replacement of a bridge over the Connecticut River, and up to $20 million for replacement of two power substations on the state-owned New Haven Line.

The new bridge will provide additional clearance for marine traffic, allow train speeds to increase from 45 mph to 70 mph, and reduce the number of delays for bridge openings.

The new substations on the New Haven Line, used by more than 350 commuter trains and 60 Amtrak trains, will be more reliable and energy efficient, less costly to maintain, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

In New Jersey, up to $45 million was awarded for replacement of the Sawtooth Bridges, two 110-year-old structures in Kearny used by Amtrak and New Jersey Transit. The two existing bridges will be replaced with three new ones, with four tracks providing redundancy for operations during maintenance work or service disruptions.

They will also allow an increase in operating speed above the current 60 mph.

In Maryland up to $20 million was awarded to fund final design for replacement of the 116-year-old, Amtrak-owned Susequehanna River Bridge between Perryville and Havre de Grace.

The new bridge will allow train operation at up to 125 mph, with greater clearance above the river and a movable span that can open and close more efficiently.

In New York, up to $10.7 million was awarded for work necessary in advance of the East River Tunnel Rehabilitation Project, and up to $4.5 million for preliminary stages of the Pelham Bay Bridge Replacment Project.

Before tunnel work can begin, a connection to Sunnyside Yard must be reinstalled and improved, and an electric traction power cable must be relocated.

The Pelham Bay Bridge over the Hutchinson River in the Bronx opened in 1907 and often fails to close properly.

The new bridge will increase clearance for marine traffic and raise operating speeds to 60 to 100 mph.

Also in New York, up to $28.2 million was awarded to replace a 520-foot-long, low-level platform with a high-level platform at Rhinecliff Station on the Empire Corridor.

The project will also include new access to the platform including stairs, elevators, and a pedestrian bridges, as well as track and signal work needed to allow an increase in Empire Service operations.

In California, up to $27.3 million was awarded for improvements in Oceanside on the Surf Line. The project will replace a 100-year-old, single-track bridge over the San Luis Rey River with a two-track structure, as well as improving a grade-crossing, bike path, pedestrian underpass, grading, drainage, and signals.

In Massachusetts, up to $7.6 million was awarded for replacement of the more than century-old South Elm Street Bridge on the MBTA’s Haverhill Line, which is also used by Amtrak.

In Michigan up to $1.6 million was awarded for reconstruction of five deficient bridges on the state-owned rail line between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, used by Amtrak’s Wolverine and Blue Water trains. The work will improve reliability, increase load ratings, and avoid future bridge closures.

Biden Wants Increase in Transportation Spending

March 30, 2022

The Biden administration has proposed increasing funding on railroad and public transit programs in federal fiscal year 2023 in a $5.79 trillion budget proposal.

The administration sent its budget recommendations to Congress this week.

Biden proposed spending $105 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation along with another $37 billion in advance appropriations provided for by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The budget calls for $4.66 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration. The agency received $2.86 billion in the past two fiscal years.

Amtrak would get $3 billion, including $1.8 billion for the national network and $1.2 billion for the Northeast Corridor.

The Federal Transit Administration would receive $16.87 billion, which includes $300 million for rail car replacement.

Some funding in the proposed FTA budget would cover work on the Portal North Bridge replacement project in Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and $100 for engineering work on the Hudson Tunnels project between New York City and New Jersey.

Other notable transportation funding includes $2.85 billion for Capital Investment Grants, $500 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants, $555 million for the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail program, $245 million for the Railroad Crossing Elimination program, and $1.5 billion for Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grants and the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance Grant program,

The figures for those programs do not include funding authorized by the infrastructure act approved last year. All funding proposals are subject to congressional approval.

USDOT Sides With Amtrak in Gulf Coast Case

January 30, 2022

The U.S. Department of Transportation has urged the U.S. Surface Transportation Board to side with Amtrak in a case involving new intercity rail passenger service between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

In a brief filed in December but not made public until last week, DOT said the STB should order the restoration of Gulf Coast Service and accused host railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern of seeking to weaken the interpretation of a federal law that grants Amtrak access to host railroads for new and expanded rail passenger train service.

DOT said the intent of Congress in adopting the Rail Passenger Service Act of 1970, which created Amtrak and relieved railroads of the obligation of providing intercity rail passenger service, was that a host railroad must prove affirmatively that new service would harm their freight operations.

The legal standard, DOT argued in its amicus brief, is that host railroads must show the new service would create an “unreasonable impairment.”

DOT argued that Congress always intended for new or additional Amtrak service to enjoy a presumption of favor barring that showing of “unreasonable impairment.”

Amtrak has proposed double daily service between New Orleans and Mobile, a route that last hosted passenger trains in August 2005.

That service, the tri-weekly Sunset Limited, operated between New Orleans and Orlando, Florida, but was suspended in the aftermath of damage to the rail infrastructure caused by Hurricane Katrina.

The Sunset Limited continues to operate tri-weekly west of New Orleans to Los Angeles.

CSX and NS have argued that the addition of Amtrak service would harm their freight service and have demanded millions of dollars in track improvements in return for agreeing to host the service.

For the past five years the various parties, including the Southern Rail Commission, have been arguing about the scope and cost of those improvements. They have also argued about a traffic study of how Amtrak service would affect freight operations.

The DOT brief said there is more at stake in the case than just new corridor service to Mobile.

“In the Department’s view, it is important to set a precedent in this case that vindicates the governing statute and the purposes underlying it,” DOT argued. “Rail carriers have obligations in hosting Amtrak service, and these obligations were part and parcel of Congress’s decision five decades ago to create Amtrak and to relieve rail carriers of their obligations to carry passengers. The Board should not countenance an interpretation of the statute that makes passenger rail service illusory.”

DOT described the operational analysis submitted to regulators by CSX and NS to support their assertions of harm as “insufficient” to prove Amtrak service would “impair unreasonably” their freight transportation.

“Congress created Amtrak to provide and promote intercity passenger rail services that were always expected to operate primarily over host railroad infrastructure.,” DOT said “This was part and parcel of an effort to strengthen struggling rail carriers, many of whom were in a precarious financial position, by relieving them of their longstanding common carrier obligations to transport passengers.

 “Since then, Congress has taken numerous steps to reaffirm the importance of Amtrak’s ability to operate over host railroad infrastructure, including through the recent provision of historic levels of funding for Amtrak intercity passenger rail development and related investments in host railroad infrastructure.”

The latter was a reference to funding intended to bolster intercity rail passenger service contained in the infrastructure bill approved by Congress last year.

“Nothing in the governing statute, 49 U.S.C.24308(e), indicates that Congress anticipated a protracted period of time or the expenditure of extraordinary sums as a condition precedent to the addition of passenger trains along an existing rail line,” DOT said.

House Budget Bill Boosts Transportation Spending

July 19, 2021

The House Appropriations Committee last week approved a spending bill for fiscal year 2022 that would boost spending on transportation programs over FY2021 levels.

The bill, known as the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies legislation provides an increase of $1.9 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation.

USDOT is allocated $105.7 billion in budgetary resources, a 22 percent increase above the FY2021 enacted level ($86.7 billion) and President Joseph Biden’s FY2022 budget request of $87 billion.

Among the spending levels authorized for transportation programs are:

• $1.2 billion for National Infrastructure Investments, a 20 percent increase from FY 2021. It includes $20 million for Transportation Planning Grants to assist areas of persistent poverty, a 100 percent increase over FY 2021. An additional $100 million is included for a new grant program to “spur thriving communities nationwide.”

•$4.1 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration, up 46 percent from FY 2021. This includes $625 million for the new Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization, and Expansion (PRIME) grant program “to support projects that improve, expand or establish passenger rail service”; $500 million for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program, a 33 percent increase from FY 2021; $2.7 billion for Amtrak, a 35 percent boost over FY 2021, which includes $1.2 billion for Northeast Corridor Grants and $1.5 billion for National Network Grants.

• $15.5 billion for the Federal Transit Administration, including $12.2 billion for Transit Formula Grants to expand bus fleets and increase the transit state of good repair; $2.5 billion for Capital Investment Grants to construct more than 23 new transit routes nationwide, a 22 percent increase above the FY 2021 enacted level and equal to the president’s budget request; and $580 million for Transit Infrastructure Grants to purchase more than 300 zero-emission buses and 400 diesel buses, and to support “transformative research for transit systems,” which is a 12 percent increase above FY 2021.

Biden Budget Proposal Would Boost Amtrak Spending 35%

May 30, 2021

Amtrak would get a 35 percent boost, most of it for capital projects, if Congress adopts the Biden administration budget.

The administration has proposed $2.7 billion for Amtrak with a major share of that funding set to be used for track and station improvements, fleet refreshment, and systemwide maintenance. Another $625 million would create a new grant program, Passenger Rail Improvement, Modernization and Expansion, to develop and expand rail corridors across the nation.

The U.S Department of Transportation would receive $88 billion in total.

This includes $13.5 billion for transit projects of which $2.5 billion is for Capital Investment Grants, a $459 million increase, to accelerate projects already in process and support new projects seeking approval.

Another $550 million would go toward Transit Infrastructure Grants of which $250 million is for the Zero Emission Bus Program.

The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity grant program would receive $1 billion in funding.

Stimulus Money Conveyed to Amtrak

April 28, 2021

The U.S. Department of Transportation said this week that it has conveyed to Amtrak $1.69 billion in economic stimulus funds authorized by the American Rescue Act of 2021.

The funding includes $728.6 million for Amtrak’s long distance and regional trains outside the Northeast Corridor.

Amtrak was directed by Congress to allocate $174 million of that total to offset what the carrier charges states for corridor services.

However, the law does not require states to restore their Amtrak corridor services to pre-pandemic levels.

Most states reduced their corridor services during the COVID-19 pandemic due to a plunge in ridership.

Several states have begun restoring suspended services but others have yet to announce their plans.

Among the routes yet to be fully restored is the Wolverine Service between Chicago and Detroit (Pontiac).

The route had three roundtrips pre-pandemic, but since March 2020 the level of service has been a single daily roundtrip.

Some Illinois and Missouri routes also continued to operate below pre-pandemic levels.

The directive also mandated that Amtrak return long-distance service to daily operation if they operated as such before last year.

Amtrak has said daily operation will be phased in over a three-weekly period beginning May 24.

The Northeast Corridor will receive $969.4 million of which $109.8 million will go to states and commuter railroads to cover their share of capital costs Amtrak charges them for using the Northeast Corridor.

Another $100.8 million will be used for debt relief that Amtrak incurred before the legislation was adopted on March 11.

Lawsuit Will Seek to Halt Texas Rail Line

April 15, 2021

A Texas county has joined a lawsuit seeking to block Texas Central from building a high-speed rail line in the Lone Star state.

Commissioners in Navarro County have retained a Dallas law firm, which has agreed to represent the county at no cost in a multi-party suit including several other counties.

The lawsuit is expected to be brought against the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Railroad Administration over an environmental impact study related to the project.

Biden Administration Expected to Move Gateway Project Along

March 27, 2021

The Biden administration plans to approve the long-stalled Gateway Project to build new tunnels under the Hudson River between New York and New Jersey.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg made the announcement this week during a hearing of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Buttigieg said the U.S. Department of Transportation hopes to complete the project’s environmental impact statement by the end of June.

“I share your sense of urgency,” Buttigieg told the committee. “This is a regional issue but one of “national significance because if there was a failure in one of those tunnels, the entire U.S. economy would feel it.”

The existing tunnels are more than a century old and suffered severe damage in 2012 during superstorm Sandy.

Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains use the tunnels.