Fresh from the June announcement that every MIPRC state had won a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grant, the region got more good news in August when the Federal Railroad Administration announced the first “State Of Good Repair” (SOGR) grant awards: three Midwestern states are among the 10 winners.
The FRA on August 21 announced $272.3 million in funding, of which projects in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin will be awarded up to $66.9 million.
The Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program is authorized by the FAST Act of 2015. It provides funding to repair, replace or rehabilitate publicly- or Amtrak-owned or -controlled railroad equipment, infrastructure and facilities. The SOGR Program is intended to improve intercity passenger rail performance. Eligible projects include upgrading infrastructure such as track, switches, bridges, and highway-rail grade crossings; stations; and equipment, including passenger cars.
This round came from fiscal years 2017 and 2018 and went to projects that provided more than the minimum 20 percent non-federal match requirement, FRA officials said.
Midwestern projects include:
• Up to $25.7 million awarded to Wisconsin’s Department of Transportation for nine new, “Next Generation” single-level and cab-coach passenger equipment from Siemens, for the Milwaukee-Chicago Hiawatha service. According to the FRA, WisDOT will buy three single-level cab-coach cars, which will replace cab-baggage cars, and six single-level coach cars.
• Up to $23.3 million awarded to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) for projects between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, on the state-supported Detroit-Chicago Wolverine service. Projects include rail, crosstie and track surface rehabilitation, and replacement of two railroad bridges at Jackson Street and Mechanic Street in Jackson. According to the FRA, the current bridges “rely on temporary shoring and have sub-standard vertical clearances, resulting in frequent bridge strikes by highway vehicles.” The new spans will reduce or eliminate bridge strikes and reconfigure and expand sidewalks under the structures to improve pedestrian safety.
• Up to $17.8 million awarded to Metra (Chicago’s commuter rail authority) to build a new grade-separated double-tracked rail bridge over Milwaukee Avenue, immediately north of the Grayland Metra station on Metra’s Milwaukee District-North Line in Chicago, which is also used by the state-supported Hiawatha and long-distance Empire Builder trains. According to the FRA, this project will replace the existing structure, originally constructed circa 1899 and rated in poor condition, with a new double-track bridge that will return the crossing to a state-of-good-repair and provide future maintenance and operating cost savings.
In an Aug. 23 statement, WisDOT officials said they will add the new passenger cars to the Midwest Rail equipment pool, which provides passenger rolling stock to eight state-supported routes in the region.
Arun Rao, WisDOT’s passenger rail manager, said these new cars will be ordered in addition to cars Siemens is already building for the Midwest (and scheduled for delivery starting in late 2020). These additional cars will likely be delivered starting in 2023, “but again, we don’t know that for sure yet,” he said.
The statement also quoted Ray Lang, Amtrak’s senior director, as saying the new equipment supports planned increases in service frequency in the fast-growing Milwaukee-Chicago corridor, and would “substantially improve intercity passenger rail service. This advances the Amtrak goal of expanding and improving corridor services and setting more ridership records.”
Outside the Midwest, but related to Midwestern rail service, Louisiana was awarded up to $3.7 million for platform and plant improvement projects at New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, which is the southern terminus for the daily Chicago-New Orleans City of New Orleans.
According to the FRA, this grant will cover completion of final design and construction activities to upgrade the station platforms and train-servicing capabilities. Planned improvements include bringing the platforms into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), increasing platform height to provide level boarding for the City of New Orleans and Sunset Limited (New Orleans-Los Angeles) and improving the step height for the Crescent (New Orleans-New York City). Additional work will expand the rail platform canopy, and update the lighting, electrical, air, and water systems that service trains at the terminal.
You can see MIPRC’s tracking chart of all federal discretionary grant awards here.