July 3, 2022 - TRA Newswire -
On Thursday the Federal Railroad Administration announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for its newly created Railroad Crossing Elimination Program, a grant program to improve safety and mobility of people and goods.
$3 billion in appropriated funding will be made available, including over $573 million for fiscal year 2022 and it is open to state and local applicants. The NOFO, which is to be published in the federal register shortly, will only be open for a 90 day period for applications.
"We encourage the Texas Department of Transportation to move rapidly on this and submit grant proposals for grade crossings that have shown to be problematic with accidents and fatalities," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "We know that TxDOT is highly constrained with a miniscule Rail Division budget, so it's also up to the Texas Legislature to pony up with funds in the coming 2023 session so we have a state match for competitive federal rail grants. "
LeCody said that Texas missed out on its share of over $19 billion in the last decade because the state couldn't even put up a 20 to 30% match for federal rail grant opportunities. "Texas has more rail miles, more rail crossings and more rail at-grade-crossing accidents than other state but we were effectively shut out of those federal funds because of no state participation. The federal share in this program can not exceed 80% and a lot of states will be battling for these funds."
"The Railroad Crossing Elimination program will make many grade crossings safer of eliminate them altogether in the coming years," said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. "The projects funded by the program demonstrate the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law's lasting impact on communities by strengthening their infrastructure, reducing congestion and saving lives."
Besides closing or grade-separating highway crossings, parties can apply for track relocation funding, improvement or installation of safety equipment, other crossing safety improvements, groups of related programs and for planning and design funding. Coordination with the railroads involved is essential in the process and interested parties should first contact the government affairs representative for the railroad before proceeding further.
Eligible applicants are public entities including states, cities, counties, MPO's, port authorities or any combination of them.
Texas Rail Advocates supports the work of GoRail, a DC-based rail advocacy organization that energizes local community leaders promoting a strong rail system. GoRail offers a number of resources relating to the Rail Crossing Elimination Program grants as well as other rail funding opportunities at their Rail Grant Hub. One of the tools is a six-question survey that walks communities through the eligibility requirements and primary considerations for the crossing program. An hour-long webinar discussing the crossing program and best practices for the USDOT grant program is available through this link. GoRail Texas State Representative Brett Sebastian is willing to assist eligible applicants and can be contacted through https://www.linkedin.com/in/brett-sebastian/
GoRail issued a statement that commends the FRA's efforts to improve safety at grade crossings and "calls on Congress to ensure the viability of this program into the future by fully funding the Railroad Crossing Elimination Program at its authorized $5.5 billion level. Congress will help railroads and communities continue to tackle most rail safety incidents, with 95% of all rail-related deaths involving drivers at grade crossings or individuals on tracks," according to GoRail.
Photo credit: Association of American Railroads