Intercity passenger rail is an integral part of our nation’s transportation network, and with that in mind, the department established a new $30 million grant program aimed at improving such services around the nation. Twenty-five forward-thinking proposals from twenty two-states will compete for funding under the new program.
The proposals are designed to improve the reliability of intercity passenger rail, relieve highway congestion, and increase 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.
The Department will review the proposals and determine final grant awards in September. The plans will be evaluated based on several criteria, including 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.
I believe states should play a more prominent role in determining where and how intercity passenger rail operates. 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 new grants will help augment state efforts, and bring needed resources to critical projects.
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