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Illinois, Kansas & Michigan rail projects among inaugural RAISE grant awards
Jon Davis
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Illinois, Kansas & Michigan rail projects among inaugural RAISE grant awards

Passenger rail-related projects in Illinois and Michigan are among the winners of inaugural Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) discretionary grants, which is the former TIGER/BUILD grant program renamed and repurposed.

The U.S. Department of Transportation on Nov. 19 announced nearly $1 billion worth of funding was awarded to 90 surface transportation infrastructure projects in 47 states, the District of Columbia and Guam. Fiscal Year 2021 RAISE grants are for planning and capital investments, for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact, a U.S. DOT press release said.

Selection criteria encompassed safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness, state of good repair, innovation, and partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders, the department said. Within these criteria, the grants reflect the Department’s priorities for creating good-paying jobs, improving safety, applying transformative technology, and explicitly addressing climate change and advancing racial equity, the department added.

According to Rail Magazine, rail and transit projects won $184.6 million from the opening round of RAISE grants.

Midwestern passenger rail projects among capital project grant awards are in Springfield, Illinois; Detroit; and – oddly enough – Trinidad, Colorado.

Springfield was awarded $13.5 million for the next phase of the Springfield Rail Improvements Project to move Amtrak passenger and Union Pacific freight trains from the single-track 3rd Street corridor (a residential setting) to a double-tracked 10th St. corridor already operated by Norfolk Southern (which is more industrial). The overall project is part of work to bring the entire Chicago-St. Louis corridor up to 110 mph services.

The $35.5 million “Usable Segment III” phase of the overall project includes new underpasses at Madison and Jefferson Streets, grading and trackwork from Capitol Avenue to Mason Street, and new grade crossing/pedestrian signals at Washington Street, Monroe Street and Capitol Avenue.

Todd Popish, passenger rail operations section chief for the Illinois Department of Transportation, said Springfield’s win will benefit the city and rail passengers alike. He also praised “a great working relationship” between IDOT, Springfield and the U.S. DOT.

“When completed, this new consolidated rail corridor will work well for both passenger and freight train movements through Springfield, and residents will also enjoy the new train station and bus connectivity to SMTD that comes with it,” as well as better traffic flow through Illinois’ capital city, Popish said. “We are pleased to see project momentum continuing with this grant announcement.”

Detroit was awarded $10 million for its planned intermodal station to replace the current Amtrak station on Baltimore Avenue at Woodward Ave.

The $57.3 million project will construct a combined rail and bus station, providing ticketing, waiting, baggage handling and amenities on the north side of the tracks; a 12-berth intercity bus boarding and alighting area on the south side of the tracks, covered by a multi-level parking garage; a lengthened and widened passenger rail platform in approximately the current platform location (along the north face of the northern track); and a passenger tunnel connecting the combined passenger station and rail platform to the bus platforms and parking garage.

“Replacing these outdated stations and improving the traveler experience in Detroit has been a long-term goal for the community,” Michigan Transportation Director Paul C. Ajegba said. “A functional, new passenger rail and intercity bus station is an important gateway to a vibrant city and provides vital access to the national transportation network.”

The $2.8 million award to Trinidad, Colo., will help pay to replace the final 34 miles of unrehabilitated trackage along the Chicago-Los Angeles Southwest Chief, which serves the Midwestern states of Kansas, Missouri and Illinois. This $23.4 million project will revitalize rail, turnouts and grade crossings in Kansas and Colorado.

According to the U.S. DOT’s November 19 press release, RAISE grant funding is statutorily split 50-50 among rural and urban projects. For this round of RAISE grants, the maximum grant award was $25 million, and no more than $100 million could be awarded to a single state.

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