Monday, June 1, 2020
Illinois and Michigan won $19 million in the latest round of Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program (SOGR) grants, announced in late May by the Federal Railroad Administration.
Those grants were two of 12 awarded to projects in nine states, totaling more than $302 million.
“Once again MIPRC states will benefit from FRA grant programs established specifically to benefit passenger rail,” said MIPRC Chair Robert Guy. “The most recent round of state-of-good repair (SOGR) awards will benefit both state-supported and long-distance service and should substantially help with reliability while increasing capacity, reducing delays and improving safety.”
In Illinois, Metra (the Chicago area’s commuter rail agency) won up to $12,482,600 for track and signal improvements at three interlockings on the Milwaukee District North Line, which is also used by Amtrak’s state-supported Hiawatha and long-distance Empire Builder services, and two freight railroads.
The project will bring signal components into a state-of-good-repair, improve compatibility with Positive Train Control, and replace obsolete components for which replacement parts are no longer available. Signals will be replaced and upgraded at all three interlockings. At the Rondout interlocking, a new track connection to Metra’s Fox Lake subdivision will also be added to increase capacity and reduce delays. This second track is one of the projects required to eventually increase Hiawatha service from their normal seven daily round trips to 10.
In Michigan, the state’s Department of Transportation was awarded up to $6,521,957 for track and signal work in the Kalamazoo-Dearborn corridor, used by the state-supported Wolverine and Blue Water services as well as multiple freight railroads.
Work will include signal and grade crossing component rehabilitation, including replacing 10 turnouts used to move on and off the mainline tracks, along with switch machines, switch heaters, backup power generators, and 26 gate crossing mechanisms at 18 crossings along the line. The project will contribute to enabling 110-mph service in the corridor.
“We are pleased to receive this grant to make continued investments and improvements to the federally designated Chicago Hub (Chicago-Detroit/Pontiac) high speed rail corridor,” said Al Johnson, acting director of the MDOT Office of Rail. “This work between Kalamazoo and Dearborn will provide for a greater state of good repair including improvements that make railroad crossings safer, provide for more efficient freight and passenger train operations, and further help maintain and improve overall speeds on this vital rail corridor.”
The Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program is one of the discretionary grant programs authorized by the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2015, which expires this year (see MIPRC’s principles for renewal here). SOGR grants fund capital projects to repair, replace, or rehabilitate publicly- or Amtrak-owned or -controlled railroad assets, to reduce the state of good repair backlog and improve intercity passenger rail performance. Eligible projects include upgrading infrastructure such as track, switches, bridges, passenger stations, and highway-rail grade crossings; and equipment, including passenger cars.
The Fiscal Year 2019 SOGR selections total approximately $302.6 million of the $396 million made available for grants under the 2019 Consolidated Appropriations Act.
“This funding will go a long way in addressing passenger rail capital project needs in communities around the country,” said FRA Administrator Ronald L. Batory.”
Additional awards in this round went to projects in California, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
FRA said it will make the remaining $93.4 million available with a Notice of Funding Opportunity for FY 2020 SOGR funds.