WASHINGTON — Twenty-five forward-thinking proposals from 22 states to improve intercity passenger rail service and help relieve traffic congestion in many regions of the Nation will compete for $30 million in federal funding under a new Bush Administration grant program, announced U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary E. Peters.
“Our goal is to achieve long-term improvements in intercity passenger rail service by supporting state investments that get real results,” Peters said. She said the Department is currently reviewing the proposals and will determine final grant awards in September.
Peters explained that the state proposals received are generally designed to improve the reliability of intercity passenger rail, relieve highway congestion, and increase rail capacity. Some examples of proposed projects include installing advanced signaling systems to increase track speeds, reconfiguring track junctions to enhance operational efficiency, and constructing additional main line track to keep trains moving.
Most of the grant applications seek to improve existing passenger rail routes while a few involve planning activities for the creation of an entirely new service. Each federal grant awarded will require a 50-50 funding match, she said.
The Federal Railroad Administration will evaluate each proposal for key program priorities such as inclusion of intercity passenger rail in state plans to address congestion and a project’s ability to reduce travel times, increase service frequency, or enhance service quality. And, since some projects also will benefit the operations of private freight railroads on whose tracks passenger trains primarily run, a commitment by the host railroad to improve on-time performance will be a major consideration in evaluating proposals, Peters said.
Peters said that the Bush Administration strongly supports a greater role by states in deciding where and how intercity passenger rail is operated while focusing federal investments on capital projects. She noted that between 1996 and 2006, ridership on state-supported intercity rail routes grew by 88 percent, far more than the 17 percent increase on all other routes combined.
The Bush Administration called for creation of this first-ever federal-state funding partnership as part of its long standing intercity passenger rail reform effort, and is requesting $100 million for this grant program in its proposed FY 2009 budget.