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Biden-Harris Administration Announces Funding For 63 Railway Infrastructure Projects In 32 States

Daria Sukhorukova

United States Of America – On June 5th, the Biden-Harris Administration has announced funding for 63 projects in 32 U.S. states. These projects will aid in the reduction of train-vehicle collisions and will invest in rail crossings throughout the country.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes a grant program dedicated to helping communities eliminate sections where railroad tracks intersect with roads. Normally, these points halt vehicle and pedestrian traffic, cause deadly vehicle-rail collisions, and prevent medical responders from reaching accidents and emergencies.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) will give $570 million to the Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program. The funding will address over 400 at-grade crossings in 32 states. Funding will improve safety and make it easier to maneuver around railroad tracks by adding grade separations. Projects will close at-grade crossings and improve existing at-grade crossings where the road and train tracks meet.

Preventing blocked crossings and collisions will not only improve safety and convenience but will also create high-paying jobs to rebuild the country’s infrastructure.

In 2022, over 2,000 highway-rail crossing collisions occurred in the U.S. Over 30,000 reports of blocked crossings were submitted to the FRA’s public complaint portal that year.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has stated that commuters, residents, and first responders continuously lose valuable time every year waiting at blocked railroad crossings which are often the site of preventable collisions.

“We’re improving rail crossings in communities across the country to save lives, time, and resources for American families” Buttigieg stated.

Throughout recent years, the FRA has frequently received complaints from citizens, states, and localities in regard to the delays and disturbances caused by blocked crossings. Residents are forced to wait hours at intersections or take a detoured route. Blocked crossings also prevent first responders from arriving to the site of an accident or emergency.

Each year, over 2,000 collisions occur at highway-rail grade crossings.

The projects which will be funded by the FRA will tremendously improve the quality of life in the communities. Safer rail crossings will allow residents to get to their homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, fire stations, and workplaces without be stopped and stranded by a standing train.

FRA Administrator Amit Bose says that 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.” Bose further states that with these project selections and with the many more 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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The FRA has additionally awarded $15.7 million for planning activities alongside a $33.1 million award for project development and design activities which will create projects eligible for future funding. Twenty two percent of all the funding from the FRA, or $127.5 million, was awarded to projects in rural areas or on Tribal lands.

Learn About Some Projects

The West Belt Improvement Project in Houston, Texas will receive $36,916,200 in funding. The project includes the construction of a 9,000 foot sealed corridor and four underpasses. The West Belt will also close four at-gate crossing and eliminate seven at-grade roadway-rail crossings where more than 850 incidents of train blockages have been reported in 2023. A reduction in vehicle idling at crossings will improve air quality and save communities nearly $12.7 million in lost fuel. Texas is ranked second in the U.S. in grade crossing fatalities. The West Belt Project will increase safety for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists in addition to providing reliable access for first responders. Phase 1 of the project is being funded by the Biden-Harris Administration and the City of Houston. Future plans include developing a five mile long quiet zone to remove train horn noise for over 15,000 households.

The city of Pelham, Alabama is constructing a $41 million bridge to eliminate two existing at-grade crossings on Shelby County Road 52. The project aims to increase safety and mobility in Pelham. Shelby County Road 52 has the second highest traffic volume of any east-to-west route in the area. When the road is blocked by stalled or slow-moving trains, emergency and HAZMAT responders are unable to access half of the city. Improvements will provide a permanent and reliable route for emergency responders, decreasing delays for the 24,000 daily drivers using County Road 52. The new bridge will include five lanes with a multi-use path for pedestrians and bicyclists. These infrastructure advancements will also strengthen the State’s supply chain since more than 30 daily trains use the CSX line through Pelham to reach the Port of the Mobile.

Hammond, Indiana is working on constructing a centrally located overpass known as the Governors Parkway Railroad Overpass Project. The project will also eliminate two grade crossings where Parrish Avenue and Arizona Avenue intersect with the Norfolk Southern Railway’s rail line. Due to the proximity to Chicago, the area has consistently encountered blocked crossings, congestion, and connectivity challenges. Hammond has 53 at-grade crossings. Residents have reported that slow or stalled trains have blocked crossings from 20 minutes to several hours. The overpass and road alignment will give drivers, pedestrians, and emergency responders a safe and reliable passageway. The overpass will also reduce major traffic delays on the city’s busiest streets and connect residents to southeast Hessville. Governor’s Parkway will have one lane of vehicle travel in each direction and a multi-use path for bikers and pedestrians. The project will cost an estimated $7,029,392 to complete.

The state of Ohio will construct a bridge and eliminate three grade crossings from a neighborhood in Fostoria which is bordered by railroad tracks on three sides. Residents in the Iron Triangle neighborhood have to pass one of the three highway rail grade crossings in order to access the resources of the local community. Every 26 minutes, a CSX train travels through Fostoria, Ohio. The bridge will permit residents, emergency responders, and others to travel between the neighborhood and the surrounding communities in a safe and reliable manner. The bridge is estimated to cost nearly $7,245,000.

In Florida, the Broward County Sealed Corridor Project will increase safety at 21 grade crossings along Florida’s East Coast Rail Corridor. Alongside the corridor, 17% of collisions result from motorists driving around entrance gates. 60% of such incidences have occurred in Broward County. Safety improvements will include the construction of 33 new exit gates and 7 raised medians at crossings where 27 collisions have been reported in the past five years. The Biden-Harris Administration, the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization, and six local municipalities are funding the upgrades. This funding will increase safety at crossings where 60 trains pass through daily. The County is also projected to grow in population to nearly 2.2 million by 2045.

In Davenport, Iowa, the South Concord Street Grade Separation project will include the construction of an overpass and the elimination of a one highway-rail crossing. Residents and motorists have reported being stranded at blocked crossings for 30 minutes to 2 hours. Approximately 10 trains pass through the crossings daily. Improvements will be made to ensure access to the city’s Water Pollution Control Plant which serves over 140,000 residents in Davenport, Bettendorf, Panorama Park, and Riverdale. With the overpass, first responders will have an unobstructed path to reach workers at the water facility, a nearby compost facility, and the Nahant Rail Yard. The overpass will be constructed to withstand 100-year or stage 23.6 floods from the Mississippi River.

The city of Washougal, Washington is proposing the 32nd Street Underpass Project which will have the development, final design, right-of-way acquisition, and rail bridge construction funded by the FRA. The underpass will help reconnect the Addy Street neighborhood with the downtown and port areas. Five key intersections will be reconstructed along 32nd Street to increase safety and reduce the possibility of vehicle-train collisions. The rail overpass accompanied by roadway improvements will provide safer streets and increased functionality of the 32nd Street Corridor.

There is over 130,000 miles of railroad tracks in the United States. The FRA asserts that improving safety in the communities where the tracks run through is a main priority of the Department.

In the next four years, additional RCE Program funding will be available annually. Project selections for other grant programs will be announced in the following months.