May 8, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is expected to announce, this month, the procedures for filing for Infrastructure Law rail grant programs. $66 billion in advanced appropriations are to be available for passenger and freight rail programs over a 5 year period. Competitive grant funding will be made available through Notices of Funding Opportunity (NOFO).

Will Texas step up and get it's Fair-Share-For-Rail? If the past serves as an example, the state did not apply for a share of over $19 billion in federal rail grants and those funds went to dozens of other states. $66 billion is on the line this time. 

"We have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to seize the day and for once have Texas participate in a competitive grant program with other states," according to Texas Rail Advocates President Peter LeCody. "We only need a 20 to 30% state match to be eligible for a basket of federal rail programs to enhance how we can move people and goods by rail. There are many eligible projects in the TxDOT State Rail Plan that will never be completed if we don't act on this soon. We haven't heard a peep from the Texas Transportation Commission and the Texas Department of Transportation.  Are they interested in pursuing these federal-state matching rail programs or not?"

Federal rail programs that will be available will be announced through the Federal Register and through the FRA’s Competitive Discretionary Grants page. FRA Chief Counsel Allison Ishihara Fultz outlined the rail programs during the Southwestern Rail Conference in Dallas on April 1st and said that many funding announcements will be made within the next six months. 

  • The Railroad Crossing Elimination Program is a new FRA program authorized under the Infrastructure Law to fund highway-rail crossing improvements that focus on improving the safety and mobility of people and goods. $3 billion in advanced appropriations will be available. At present Texas only receives about a $25 million annual federal grant through Section 130 funds, hardly enough to complete one railroad overpass. 
  • The Corridor Identification and Development Program is another new program to develop new, enhanced and restored intercity passenger rail corridors.  Texas transportation officials must let the FRA know that they are interested in this program before Amtrak can start a study on three passenger rail corridors in the state they would like to see developed under their 2035 Amtrak ConnectsUS Vision.
  • CRISI, The Consolidated Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program will have $5 billion to split between states. CRISI projects are designed to reduce congestion, improve short-line and regional railroad infrastructure, relocate rail lines and enhance connections between rail and other modes such as at ports and intermodal facilities.
  • Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail will have $36 billion to fund capital projects to improve performance and expand or establish new intercity passenger rail service.
  • Creating Interstate Rail Compact Grants for groups of states that want to establish a governance structure to administer, plan, coordinate operations and promote intercity passenger rail routes. The program provides financial support for up to 10 commissions, up to $1 million annually. If the Texas Transportation Commission and TxDOT concur, Texas could join an Oklahoma-Kansas Rail Compact to promote added service from Fort Worth northward and also join the Southern Rail Commission which now covers Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama to enhance rail service along the Gulf Coast and the planned I-20 passenger rail corridor expansion.

LeCody said that "if the Texas legislature will fund a kickstart appropriation with the still-unused Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund (appropriated fund 0306) and the Texas Transportation Commission and TxDOT go after these programs, we will see numerous benefits of moving people and goods through the state like we've never seen before."

On top of the $66 billion in advanced appropriations, an additional $36 billion in authorized but not appropriated federal funds could be distributed by Congress through fiscal year 2026.