Illinois, Michigan projects win 'State of Good Repair' grants
Two Midwestern passenger rail projects were among 11 winners of Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair (SOGR) Program grants announced in August by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT).
In Illinois, Amtrak was awarded up to $3 million for final design and construction phases of the Chicago Union Station (CUS) Concourse Improvement Project. Chicago Union Station is the busiest station in the Midwest and fourth busiest in Amtrak’s network; its concourse level serves both Amtrak (intercity) and Metra (commuter) passengers.
The first phase of the project will be “Programming and Preliminary Engineering,” which Amtrak officials said is anticipated to start at the end of this year. Once that phase is complete, the SOGR funding from this grant award will cover the “Final Design” phase which will address issues of passenger flow, bottlenecks, accessibility and directional signage to improve passenger safety and overall experience, reduce travel time through the station and provide capacity for current and future demand, Amtrak officials said.
In Michigan, the Department of Transportation was awarded up to $1.5 million for the “Michigan Accelerated Rail Bridge Reconstruction Project” to rebuild five deficient bridge structures located on the state-owned segment of the rail corridor between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, which is used by the state-supported Wolverine (Detroit/Pontiac-Chicago) and Blue Water (Port Huron-Chicago) services.
The award will fund preliminary engineering and preparation of National Environmental Policy Act documents for the proposed work – stages that should begin during 2023, MDOT official said. No dates are set yet for build-out, officials said, as they’re still determining whether to pursue additional grant funding and how that will affect the timing of construction.
U.S. DOT on Aug. 18 awarded over $233 million in fiscal year 2021 Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants to 11 projects in 8 states. Other awards will help replace century-old bridges and tunnels along the Northeast Corridor and improve rail infrastructure in California and Massachusetts.
This was likely the final iteration of the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair program.
Under the new federal Infrastructure Investment & Jobs Act (a.k.a. the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law), it is being renamed as the Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program and is expanding both in funding – $7.2 billion annually for the next five years – and scope and vision.
The Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program’s purpose goes beyond funding just capital projects that reduce the state of good repair backlog to ones that improve performance, or expand or establish new intercity passenger rail service, including privately operated intercity passenger rail service if an eligible applicant is involved.
Eligible projects will include ones to improve intercity passenger rail service performance by reducing trip times, increasing train frequencies and operating speeds, improving reliability, expanding capacity, reducing congestion, electrification and other improvements as determined by the transportation secretary.
Also eligible will be projects to expand or establish new intercity passenger rail service; a group of related projects as described above; and the planning, environmental review, and final design of an eligible project or group of projects described above.
FRA is expected to make FY22 Partnership Program funds available through a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) this Fall.