$1.1 billion in grants available to improve safety at railroad crossings

July 11, 2024

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for more than $1.1 billion in Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program funding. This is the only competitive discretionary grant program focused on enhancing the safety and efficiency of railroad crossings.

The RCE Program funds projects that construct grade separations, upgrade safety devices at crossings or close at-grade crossings where roads and train tracks intersect. Addressing collisions and blockages at grade crossings has been a top priority for the FRA, especially as increasing train lengths lead to more frequent and prolonged blockages.

According to the FRA’s preliminary data for 2023, 2,190 collisions happened at highway crossings, resulting in 248 deaths and 761 injuries.

“By making grade crossings safer or eliminating them altogether, we are acting to ensure Americans spend less time stuck in lengthy delays, can get around their neighborhoods more easily and safely, and can avoid the needless tragedies that result from collisions with trains,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

Applications under this NOFO are due Sept. 24 and will be assessed based on factors including their impact on safety, community connectivity, access to emergency services, goods mobility, supply chain strength and noise reduction. At least 20% of RCE Program funding (approximately $230 million in this round) will be reserved for projects in rural communities or on Tribal lands, with about $38 million allocated for planning projects.

Eligible applicants include:

  • A state (including the District of Columbia Puerto Rico, and other United States territories and possessions).
  • A political subdivision of a state.
  • A federally recognized Indian tribe.
  • A unit of local government or a group of local governments.
  • A public port authority.
  • A metropolitan planning organization.
  • A group of entities included above.

Projects must address one or more of:

  • Grade separation or closure, including using a bridge, embankment, tunnel or combination thereof.
  • Track relocation.
  • Improvement or installation of protective devices, signals, signs or other safety measures, provided that such activities are related to a separation or relocation project described above.
  • Other means to improve the safety and mobility of people and goods at highway-rail grade crossings (including technological solutions).
  • A group of related projects described above that would collectively improve the mobility of people and goods.
  • The planning, environmental studies, and final design for a project or group of projects described above.

“FRA is equipped with unprecedented levels of resources to tackle long-standing issues of grade crossing collisions and blocked crossings, which create safety risks for numerous communities around the country,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “Railroads play a vital role in our nation’s transportation network by moving people and goods in a sustainable and efficient way, and the funding … will help ensure that railroad operations are compatible with safety and mobility.”

FRA awarded more than 63 RCE Program grants for significant projects in 2023, including the creation of a sealed rail corridor in Houston and the construction of overpasses, underpasses and rail bridges in Pelham, Ala.; Hammond, Ind.; and Washougal, Wash. This year, FRA has also made $2 billion in additional grant funding available through the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program and nearly $2.5 billion via the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program, both aimed at enhancing safety and efficiency on the nation’s rail network.

Photo by craig kerwien on Unsplash

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