The Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities' METRO Blue Line

Rail revolution – Unprecedented funding for projects continues nationwide

July 1, 2024

Two months ago, the federal government announced that $2.4 billion is available to support rail infrastructure projects in America. Hundreds of public officials interested in rail projects have already submitted applications for funding, and decisions about the projects selected for funding will be announced soon.

In December 2023, more than $9 billion was awarded for rail projects through various federal programs. Those awards resulted in numerous large projects being pushed into the planning and design phase. Almost all will be very large rail initiatives. For example, the Chicago Metra announced a plan in April that details $332 million in capital projects for 2024. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority also announced a three-year capital plan in February, including a $2.3 billion capital budget for fiscal year 2025. Large rail initiatives are outlined in both plans.

As soon as the funding allocations are announced, a diverse range of new project announcements will follow. These projects, while different in nature, will all present numerous opportunities for private industry offerings, underscoring the breadth of the rail industry and the potential for collaboration.

Miami-Dade’s Department of Transportation and Public Works will oversee an upcoming $538 million rapid transit project to connect Aventura and downtown Miami. A rail line will be constructed along with five new stations. The remaining two stations will be enhanced significantly. Parking facilities will be designed to deliver a total of 521 new parking spaces. About 20 commuter rail vehicles will be purchased for the project, and improvements will be made to the rail vehicle maintenance facility in Hialeah. Finally, the two existing stations will be modified and enhanced in various ways to accommodate the new line. The project’s environmental review process has ended, and it is now in the engineering phase. Construction work is planned for 2025, and officials say the new rail service will be operational by the end of 2027.

A much-needed safety project is progressing at a railroad crossing in Fresno, California. Funded by an $80 million grant from the state of California, the project will be designed to improve safety for the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Line (BNSF) rail crossing at the intersection of Blackstone and McKinley. This particular rail crossing project is a high priority because it has experienced the highest vehicle traffic and the most accidents of any BNSF corridor crossing in California. The work will include elevating the existing tracks onto new bridges. This will eliminate the current need for vehicles and pedestrians to stop at the tracks as a passage for them will be underneath the new bridge when the project is completed. Another safety component will be the installation of retaining walls. The project’s design phase, which is currently underway, is expected to continue for another 18 months. Construction will follow once the designs have been approved and reviewed for safety and feasibility.  That should allow for a construction launch in late 2025 or early 2026.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority in New York City received federal funding for early planning for a new light rail line to provide passenger rail service between Brooklyn and Queens without the need to travel through Manhattan. The new 14-mile light rail will link historically underserved neighborhoods to 17 subway lines, 51 bus routes and the Long Island Railroad. This $6 billion rail line will be built along an existing freight rail corridor and run along an existing freight rail. Reconstruction of bridges and embankments along the corridor will also be included as components of the project, and there will be 19 stations along the new route. Engineering and design work will begin later this year.  However, because of the time anticipated for planning, engineering and the environmental review process, it will likely be two more years before construction can launch.  However, officials hope to award contracts to selected firms after the design is finalized.  Contracting partners could be chosen in late 2026 or early 2027.

Officials at the Metropolitan Council of the Twin Cities region in Minnesota will oversee an extension of the region’s METRO Blue Line light rail. This initiative will launch a $3 billion public transportation project to connect downtown Minneapolis to communities in North Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Crystal and Brooklyn Park.  It will require 13.4 miles of new light rail track and improve transit options in the region while also providing connections to the MSP Airport and the Mall of America.

The plan will require 12 new stations and extensions making connections to METRO Green Line, Northstar Commuter Rail line, bus rapid transit lines, existing bus service and proposed future transitways. The project is in the final design phase, which will continue through 2025 and construction is planned for 2026 or possibly early 2027.

Officials at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation have announced plans to proceed with a large track improvement project. The $136 million project will involve 53 miles of rail between Worcester and Springfield, Massachusetts.  

Work will focus on decreasing congestion and increasing capacity on the existing line. Project components will call for adding passing sidings and double tracking to separate freight and passenger trains. By improving the rails’ safety ratings, the project, when completed, will allow for increasing the maximum train speed along the corridor from 60 miles per hour to 80 miles per hour. The project’s design phase has started, but construction will likely not begin until 2027.

Projects similar to the ones described will soon release solicitations, and private sector partners will be allowed to compete for the work. However, it is noteworthy that hundreds of additional contracting opportunities are also on the horizon and will be announced as soon as new awardees are selected for the most recent $2.4 billion allocated to support new rail initiatives.  Improving America’s public transportation infrastructure is an extremely high priority for government leaders, and the funding that is now flowing to support rail projects is historic.

Photo by Central Corridor

Mary Scott Nabers

Mary is President/CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc. (SPI), a business development/public affairs firm that specializes in procurement consulting, market research, government affairs, knowledge transfer and public-private partnerships (P3s). Mary is also co-founder of the Gemini Global Group (G3), a firm that works with national and international clients on business development, P3s, and other types of government objectives.

A recognized expert regarding P3s, Mary is the author of Collaboration Nation – How Public-Private Ventures Are Revolutionizing the Business of Government and Inside the Infrastructure Revolution – A Roadmap for Rebuilding America.

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