June 22, 2009
FRA Provides Filing Requirements for ARRA Funds
BY CARMEN GRECO JR., Special to Passenger Transport
On June 17, officials from transit agencies across the country got their first look at the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) filing requirements for an expected rush of grant applications needed to access $8 billion in ARRA funding being made available for high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects.
FRA Deputy Administrator Karen Rae outlined how much money would be available for which projects and offered tips on how transit officials could increase their chances of winning the competitive grants. The tentative due date for grant applications is Oct. 24.
“President Obama made it clear these grants are not predetermined and that they will be based on the merits of the project,” Rae said. But she added that agencies taking a regional approach to high-speed rail will increase their chances of being awarded future grant money.
“This is not about stringing rails here and there for no reason,” she said. “It’s about interconnecting communities and rail corridors. We want you to think as one region and speak with one voice. We think the strong projects will fit into a regional network.”
FRA has established four “tracks” under which grant money can be released and the procedures required to access funds for each. Tracks 1 and 2 apply to “shovel-ready” projects that will put people to work improving railroad infrastructures to handle high-speed and intercity rail. Projects considered under Track 2 need not be completely shovel-ready, but should be in an advanced stage of planning and design.
Tracks 3 and 4 apply to similar projects, but will receive only a 50 percent federal matching grant; projects under Tracks 1 and 2 could receive 100 percent federal funding.
In a U.S. DOT press release, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said: “The time has finally come for the United States to get serious about building a national network of high-speed rail corridors we can all be proud of. High-speed rail can reduce traffic congestion and link up with light rail, subways and buses to make travel more convenient and our communities more livable.”
“Rail travel will encourage economic growth and create new domestic manufacturing jobs while reducing pressure on our highways and airways,” FRA Administrator Joseph C. Szabo stated in the release. “In addition to the economic advantages, trains are energy-efficient, capable of reducing billions of pounds of carbons each year from being released into our atmosphere, and reducing our country’s reliance on oil.”
Interested parties can read the grant guidelines in detail here by clicking on the link for “SAFETEA-LU Rulemaking and Notices.”