FRA Awards $570MM for Grade Crossing Elimination Projects

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor, Railway Age
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The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) on June 5 reported that 63 projects will share more than $570 million in Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program funding to address safety at 400-plus at-grade crossings nationwide.

The awards for projects in 32 states follow the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) June 2022 release of the new program’s Notice of Funding Opportunity.

FRA, the program administrator, said the funding will be used to “improve safety, and make it easier to get around railroad tracks by adding grade separations, closing at-grade crossings, and improving existing at-grade crossings where train tracks and roads intersect.”

Projects in rural areas or on Tribal lands accounted for 22% of all funding or $127.5 million.

Along with projects that build or upgrade physical infrastructure at railroad crossings, FRA said it awarded $15.7 million for planning activities and $33.1 million for project development and design activities that “will build a pipeline of projects for future funding.” West Virginia received funding for two such projects.

Among the major projects selected for funding this year: (Scroll down for the complete, downloadable list.)

  • Alabama: The city of Pelham will receive $41.77 million for the Railroad Crossing Elimination on Shelby County Road 52 project, which will construct a bridge and eliminate two existing at-grade crossings. The cities of Pelham and Helena, Shelby County, and CSX will contribute funds totaling a 20% non-federal match. Shelby County Road 52, which FRA said carries the second-highest traffic volume of any east-to-west route in the area, currently cuts the city in half. “When blocked by stalled or slow-moving trains, emergency and hazmat responders are prevented from accessing half the city,” according to the federal agency. “Infrastructure improvements will establish a permanent, reliable route for emergency responders and decrease delays for the 24,000 drivers utilizing County Road 52 daily.” The new bridge is slated to increase capacity to five lanes with a multi-use path to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists. More than 30 daily trains destined for the Port of Mobile run on the CSX line through Pelham.
  • Indiana: The city of Hammond will receive $7.03 million for the Governors Parkway Railroad Overpass Project, which will build a new, centrally located overpass and eliminate two grade crossings where Parrish Avenue and Arizona Avenue intersect with Norfolk Southern’s (NS) line. The city, the state of Indiana and NS will provide funding totaling a 26% non-federal match. The project also includes $2.63 million in Federal Highway Administration funds. “The new overpass will eliminate major traffic delays on some of the city’s busiest streets and better connect residents, like those in southeast Hessville, where highway rail crossing delays impact their ability to get to their jobs, the grocery store, or other required services and amenities,” reported FRA, which noted that the project will provide “a safe route for vehicles/trucks to traverse the city [of Hammond, which includes 53 at-grade crossings] and not encounter current crossings blocked by trains in a four-mile area.” The project will provide one lane of vehicle travel in each direction and a multi-use path for pedestrians and bikers.
  • Florida: The Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization (BMPO) will receive $15.44 million for the Broward County Sealed Corridor Project that FRA said would boost safety at 21 grade crossings along the state’s East Coast freight rail corridor, which is shared with Brightline’s intercity passenger rail service. The BMPO and six local municipalities (Dania Beach, Wilton Manors, Ft. Lauderdale, Hallandale Beach, Hollywood, and Pompano Beach) will contribute a 20% non-federal match. “Along the corridor, 17% of collisions are the result of motorists driving around entrance gates, with nearly 60% of those instances occurring in Broward County,” FRA reported. “Safety improvements will deter such actions by constructing 33 new exit gates and seven raised medians at crossings where at least 27 collisions have occurred over the past five years.” More than 60 trains per day are estimated to pass through the corridor by next year, according to the federal agency.  
  • Iowa: The city of Davenport will receive $7.76 million for the South Concord Street Grade Separation project to eliminate one highway-rail crossing and build an overpass at another. The city and Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC) are contributing funds totaling a 20% non-federal match. “At crossings where trains pass at least 10 times daily, improvements will ensure safe and reliable access to the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant, a necessity serving approximately 140,000 residents in Davenport, Bettendorf, Panorama Park and Riverdale,” FRA reported. “Importantly, for the workers at the water facility as well as the nearby compost facility and Nahant Rail Yard, first responders will have an unobstructed path to each location, ensuring timely emergency response when required.” The overpass will be built to withstand 100-year or stage 23.6 floods in an area where transportation has come to a halt due to flooding of the nearby Mississippi River, according to the federal agency.
  • Ohio: The Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) will receive $7.25 million for the Unlocking the Iron Triangle: Grade Separation of S Town Street, Fostoria, Ohio, project, which covers planning, project development, final design, right-of-way and construction to eliminate three grade crossings. According to FRA, ORDC, CSX and NS will contribute a total of 31% in non-federal matching funds; $69,000 of this project funding amount qualifies for the statutory set-aside for planning projects. “Known as the Iron Triangle neighborhood, access to and from the community depends upon one of the three existing highway/rail grade crossings,” reported FRA, which noted that every 26 minutes, a CSX train travels through Fostoria. “Even when trains run efficiently, rail traffic means active traffic control devices at crossings sound for at least two hours per day in the east side Iron Triangle neighborhood.” 
  • Texas: The city of Houston will receive $36.92 million for the West Belt Improvement Project (Phase 1) to support project development activities, final design and construction of a 9,000-foot sealed corridor, including the construction of four underpasses and the closure of four at-grade crossings to eliminate seven existing at-grade crossings, where FRA said more than 850 incidents of train blockages have been reported this year through its online portal. The city will contribute a 20% non- federal match. The project is part of the city’s effort to create a future 14,600-foot sealed corridor along the Houston Belt & Terminal Railroad (HB&T) line, according to FRA, which noted that HB&T provides trackage rights to Union Pacific (UP), BNSF and CPKC, and the rail line connects with UP and BNSF.
  • Washington: The city of Washougal will receive $40.48 million for the 32nd Street Underpass Project that will cover development, final design, right-of-way acquisition and rail bridge construction, which FRA said will better reconnect the Addy Street neighborhood with the downtown and port areas. The city is contributing a 20% non-federal match. “The proposed design will reduce freight rail bottlenecks and allow for increased operational speeds,” FRA reported. This will require reconstruction of five key intersections along 32nd Street, of which the rail right-of-way is owned by BNSF. (For more on the project, read: “Washougal Among U.S. Cities to Receive DOT Grant.”)

Additional Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program funding will be made available annually over the next four years, according to FRA.

“Every year, commuters, residents and first responders lose valuable time waiting at blocked railroad crossings—and worse, those crossings are too often the site of collisions that could be prevented,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we’re improving rail crossings in communities across the country to save lives, time, and resources for American families.”

According to FRA, in 2022 there were more than 2,000 highway/rail crossing collisions in the U.S. and more than 30,000 reports of blocked crossings submitted to FRA’s public complaint portal.

FRA Administrator Amit Bose

“The Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is another critical tool that FRA is using to make a lasting impact on the safety and transportation needs of communities nationwide,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “With these project selections and the many more that are to come, we will save lives and reshape infrastructure in ways that allow individuals to move through their neighborhoods seamlessly and safely.”

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