LOCALIZE IT: $1.4 billion in federal grants announced to improve railroad safety and boost capacity

FILE - An Amtrak train departs 30th Street Station in Philadelphia on Oct. 27, 2021. The Biden administration announced Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, that it has awarded more than $1.4 billion to projects that improve railway safety and boost capacity, with much of the money coming from the 2021 infrastructure law. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

The Biden administration has announced more than $1.4 billion in grants to improve railroad safety and boost capacity across the country. Much of the money for the grants comes from the 2021 infrastructure law. The money will fund 70 projects in 35 states and Washington D.C.

The money will supplement what the railroads themselves spend to maintain and upgrade their tracks and equipment. The six biggest freight railroads in the Unites States spend roughly $23 billion every year on those things. But these grants can be especially important for smaller railroads that operate on much tighter profit margins.

Some $720 million of the grants announced Monday will go to 47 projects at smaller railroads — known as short-line railroads — with most of those in rural areas. Chuck Baker, the president of the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association, said those grants will help put a dent in the backlog of needed repairs across those smaller railroads. Baker said these projects “will produce benefits far beyond the track itself in the form of safer short line operations, improved rail service, greater supply chain fluidity and efficiency, reduced environmental impact, and the support of hundreds of thousands of jobs across the country that are tied directly to these railroads and to the shippers and communities they serve.”

Railroads are generally regarded as the safest way to ship freight over land, but rail safety has been a concern nationwide ever since a Norfolk Southern train derailed and caught fire in eastern Ohio back in February. That derailment highlighted the potential dangers of any crash involving hazardous materials.

Regulators and members of Congress called for safety reforms after that derailment but administrative rules are slow to develop and a rail safety bill has stalled in the Senate while waiting for a vote. So there hasn’t been significant changes made in the industry besides the railroads’ promise to add about 1,000 more trackside detectors to help spot mechanical problems before they can cause derailments.



Biden administration announces $1.4 billion to improve rail safety and boost capacity in 35 states



Here’s is a list of all 70 projects that will receive grants nationwide. The grants will pay for a variety of improvements at railroads nationwide, including replacing some bridges and less efficient locomotives or upgrading tracks so they can safely handle heavier cars or faster speeds. Find more details about each project here.



— Blackbelt and Central Alabama Freight Rail Improvement Project (Up to $15,870,960) Alabama Department of Transportation

— Reduce Extended Delays; Enhance Safety; and Invest in Growing Neighborhoods (R.E.D.E.S.I.G.N.) Project (Up to $8,000,000) City of Birmingham, Alabama

— Safety, Efficiency, Capacity Improvement and Service Restoration Project (Up to $3,476,110) Huntsville & Madison County Railroad Authority (HMCR)

— Transportation Investments for Employment and Safety (TIES) Project (Up to $37,364,504) OmniTRAX Holdings Combined, Inc



— Resilient Infrastructure & Safety Enhancement Project (Up to $ 11,830,000) DeQueen and Eastern Railroad, LLC



— Six Grade Separations in the City of Shafter Project (Up to $211,641,147) California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA)

— Sacramento to Roseville Third Track – Phase 1 Project (Up to $42,510,000) Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority (CCJA)

— Trespass Enforcement Project (Up to $78,759) City of Riverside, California

— The Central Valley Rail Emissions, Logistics and Crossing Improvement Project (Up to $12,279,127) Modesto and Empire Traction Company (M&ET)

— California Napa Valley Railroad Locomotive Emissions Improvement Project (Up To $2,058,750) Napa Valley Railroad

— SMART Healdsburg Green Rail Modernization Project(Up to $31,892,394) Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit District (SMART)



— Housatonic Railroad Service Restoration and Safety Investment Project (Up to $5,372,500) Housatonic Railroad Company Inc. (HRRC)



— Short Line PTC Performance Analytics & Security on the NEC Project (Up to $2,520,000) American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA)

— Northeast Corridor Fencing Program (Up to $8,800,000) National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)



— Trespassing Identification and Classification System Project (Up to $1,648,000) Brightline Trains Florida, LLC (Brightline)

— Central Florida Rail Corridor Crossings and Trespassing Safety Improvements Project (Up to $6,928,241) Florida Department of Transportation

— Florida Panhandle Rail Resiliency and Connectivity Project (Up to $23,198,945) Florida Gulf & Atlantic Railroad, LLC (FGA)

— Southwest Florida Rail Corridor Enhancement for Growth Project (Up to $9,600,000) Seminole Gulf Railway

— A Comprehensive Approach to Promoting Railroading Careers and Developing the Current Rail Industry Workforce (Up to $17,073,949) University of South Florida



— West Cook Rail Safety Improvement Project (Up to $2,888,000) Cook County, Illinois

— Ties and Rail Upgrade for Economic Growth on the Keokuk Junction Railway Project (Up to $15,268,018) Keokuk Junction Railway Co. (KJRY)



— Safety, Sustainability, and Alternative Energy Project (Up to $2,685,600) Louisville and Indiana Railroad Company (LIRC)

— Upgrading a Critical Indiana-Illinois Rail Corridor Project (Up to $8,128,000) Toledo, Peoria & Western Railway Corp. (TPW)



— Streamline Rail Operations and Improve Yard Safety in Cedar Rapids Project (Up to $5,850,000) Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway Co. (CRANDIC)

— Davenport Riverfront Rail Crossing Safety Improvements Project (Up to $2,749,720) City of Davenport, Iowa



— kWat: Electrifying Watco Locomotives Project (Up to $15,740,943) Kansas Department of Transportation

— Southeast Kansas Short Line Rail Upgrade and Growth Project (Up to $31,225,484) Kansas Department of Transportation



— Foster Economic Sustainability Throughout Kentucky Project (Up to $29,563,000) Paducah and Louisville Railway, Inc. (PAL)



— The Rural Louisiana Short Line Rail Modernization Initiative Project (Up to $16,800,000) Louisiana Southern Railroad LLC (LAS)

— Mississippi-Louisiana Grade Crossing Improvement Project (Up to $1,826,000) National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)



— Port of Baltimore Strategic Acquisition of Battery Electric Locomotives Project (Up to $11,584,317) Maryland Department of Transportation

— Penn-Camden Connector Project (Up to $8,800,000) Maryland Department of Transportation – Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA)



— Connecting the Commonwealth: Early Actions for the Inland Route Project (Up to $108,085,280) Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT)



— Huron Subdivision Track & Service Improvement Program (Up to $15,018,000) Lake State Railway Company (LSRC)

— Manistee River Bridge Replacement Project (Up to $20,385,000) Michigan Department of Transportation (DOT)



— MVRRA Track Rehabilitation Evaluation Project (Up to $520,000) Minnesota Valley Regional Rail Authority (MVRRA)

— TC&W Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Project (Up to $2,103,000) Twin Cities & Western Railroad Company (TC&W)



— Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement Project (Up to $178,435,333) National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)

— Gloster Southern Railroad Restoration Project (Up to $52,000,000) Town of Gloster, Mississippi



— Chapell Drive Overpass Project (Up to $4,987,399) City of Monett, Missouri

— Eastern Missouri Freight Resiliency Project (Up to $7,817,461) Jaguar Transport Holdings LLC



— Cornhusker Railroad Regional Connectivity Project (Up to $15,224,354) Cathcart Rail, LLC



— Portsmouth Bridge Replacement and Grade Crossing Improvements Project (Up to $345,000) City of Portsmouth, New Hampshire



— Point-No-Point Bridge Replacement, Phase 2 Project (Up to $59,136,891) Consolidated Rail Corporation Shared Assets (Conrail)



— Watkins Glen Rural Track Rehabilitation Project (Up to $3,869,945) Finger Lakes Railway Corp.

— Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Systemwide Tier 3 Clean Locomotive Acquisition Project (Up to $12,600,000) Livonia, Avon & Lakeville Railroad Corp.

— Adirondack Bridge Capacity and Resilience Project (Up to $3,360,000) Mohawk, Adirondack & Northern Railroad Corp. (MHWA)

— Arthur Kill Lift Bridge Capital Rehabilitation Project (Up to $17,200,000) New York City Department of Small Business Services

— NYS&W Railway Syracuse Branch Rehabilitation Project (Up to $3,467,348) The New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway Corp. (NYS&W)



— Blue Ridge Short Line Safety and Capacity Expansion Project (Up to $12,605,093) Blue Ridge Southern Railroad LLC (BBLU)

— Railroad Trespass Initiative Overtime Response Project (Up to $96,000) City of Greensboro, North Carolina



— Safe and Efficient Grain by Rail in the Red River Valley Project (Up to $11,772,708) Red River Valley & Western Railroad Company (RRVW)



— Data Driven Safety Training and Education for Front-Line Railroad Workers Project (Up to $602,227) International Association of Sheet Metal Air Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART TD)

— Napoleon, Defiance & Western Critical Safety Upgrade – Phase 2 Project (Up to $10,792,157) Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC)

— North Central Appalachia Rail Enhancement and Rail Corridor Preservation Project (Up to $16,250,000) Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC)



— Engineering Track Foremen Workforce Development Apprenticeship Training Program (Up to $8,800,000) National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak)

— Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad: Rebuilding Western Pennsylvania Project (Up to $11,250,367) Pennsylvania Department of Transportation



— Procurement and Retrofitting of Two Zero-Emission Lithium-Ion Battery Electric-Powered Locomotives Project (Up to $ 4,170,000) South Carolina Department of Commerce



— Tennessee Short Line Railroads Bridge Bundle Project (Up to $23,748,500) Tennessee Department of Transportation

— Tennken Revitalization and Safety Improvement Project (Up to $7,370,000) Tennken Railroad Co., Inc. (TKEN)



— Downtown Laredo Rail Corridor Safety Planning Project (Up to $4,000,000) City of Laredo, Texas

— Rio Valley Rail Capacity Improvement Project (Up to $3,500,000) Rio Valley Switching Company (RVSC)

— The Sunray Agricultural Supply Chain Efficiency Project (Up to $7,342,032) Texas North Western Railway Company (TXNW)



— Tri-State Regional Rail Upgrade Project (Up to $9,654,789) State of Vermont Agency of Transportation



— Franconia-Springfield Bypass Project (Up to $100,000,000) Virginia Passenger Rail Authority



— Tacoma Rail Battery-Electric Switcher Locomotive Replacement Project (Up to $4,095,000) Tacoma Rail

— Washington State Rural Rail Rehabilitation Phase II Project (Up to $72,800,000) Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT)



— Supporting Anticipated Freight Growth in Rural West Virginia Project (Up to $19,442,500) Appalachian and Ohio Railroad, Inc. (A&O)



— The Fox River Swing Bridge Improvement and Sustainability Project (Up to $2,045,160) Fox Valley & Lake Superior Rail System (FOXY)



— Strategic Acquisition of Efficient & Clean Tier 4 Locomotive Project (Up to $2,424,000) Bighorn Divide & Wyoming Railroad Inc.



— The Transportation Department release announcing the grants is available here

— Additional background about the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant program can be found here.

— The Association of American Railroads trade group represents the largest freight railroads.

— The American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association trade group represents small and regional railroads.



— Contact short line railroads in your area to ask them about the importance of grants like this and how much smaller railroads rely on them to help improve their operations.

— Talk to manufacturers or grain elevators about how much they rely on railroads to deliver both raw materials and finished products.

— Ask state Transportation Department officials about what rail improvements are most urgently needed in your area to address safety concerns and boost capacity.


Localize It is an occasional feature produced by The Associated Press for its customers’ use. Questions can be directed to Katie Oyan at koyan@ap.org.