In a boost to intercity passenger rail infrastructure, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation has awarded $233 million in grants for 11 bridge, tunnel, station and other projects in eight states, most of which are in the Northeast.
The grants, which DOT's Federal Railroad Administration announced on Aug.18, come from FRA's existing State of Good Repair State-Federal Partnership program, in which states, Amtrak, regional agencies or other entities contribute their own funds to match a portion of the federal contribution.
This round of the competition did not include funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, but the next round will, making it much larger.
DOT awards the grants through a competition. Amtrak is the recipient of six of the 11 new grants, receiving $148.4 million, or more than 60% of the round’s total funding.
But Marc Magliari, an Amtrak spokesman, told ENR via email, “There is a benefit to Amtrak service in every one of today’s grant awards.” The other recipients are the Connecticut Dept. of Transportation, Massachusetts Bay Area Transportation Authority, Michigan DOT, New York State DOT and San Diego Association of Governments.
Amtrak received the the largest single grant in the latest competition: $65.2 million for a replacement for a 115-year-old bridge across the Connecticut River. Amtrak and the Connecticut DOT will provide a funding match of 38%.
The project previously received another $65.2-million grant in the round announced last year.
The current 1,564-ft-long bridge is a rolling-lift bascule span bridge. Amtrak says its bascule "fails to open and close properly, which has led to cascading delays to rail and maritime traffic."
The replacement bridge's centerline will be about 52 ft south of the existing bridge's centerline. The new lift span's miter rail design will allow for train speeds up to 70 mph, compared with 45 mph now, according to Amtrak.
Hardesty & Hanover is the lead design firm for the project.
The latest group of awards is the precursor to what is expected to be a gigantic next round of grants in the FRA partnership program, thanks to the IIJA.
That legislation provides $7.2 billion annually for five years for the passenger rail partnership program FRA says it plans to issue a funding-availability notice for the next round in the fall.
The program was created under the 2015 Fixing America’s Surface Transportation, or FAST, Act, and DOT has awarded grants under the program for the past several years.