FRA Issues ‘Priority’ Rail Project List for Northeast Corridor

The Federal Railroad Administration recently issued a list of priority projects for the Northeast Corridor or NEC – a railroad line spanning from Boston to Washington, D.C. – to provide a “systematic approach” for the improvement and development of this corridor, which serves as the commuter and intercity passenger rail backbone of the region’s railroad network.

[Above photo by Amtrak]

Specifically, the list creates a project pipeline to assist Amtrak, state departments of transportation, and the public with long-term planning efforts to improve rail service along the corridor. FRA said its list would guide up to $24 billion in funding it is investing in NEC intercity passenger rail service through its Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail Program.

Photo by Amtrak

[Editor’s note: In July 2021, the Northeast Corridor Commission released CONNECT NEC 2035 – a $117 billion 15-year multi-agency action plan to renew the Northeastern U.S. rail corridor. That plan – commonly known as C35 – involves Northeastern state governments and state DOTs, the federal government, eight commuter rail agencies, and Amtrak working together through the NEC Commission to develop a “detailed and efficient sequencing” of infrastructure investments covering 150 projects and capital renewal efforts along the corridor.]

That list builds off the Corridor Identification and Development program FRA created in May to create a “pipeline of projects” ready for funding from the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act or IIJA enacted in November 2021.

FRA added that a request for proposal in February gained input from rail transportation stakeholders on how to best facilitate the development of intercity passenger rail corridors, which the new Corridor ID program will incorporate.

Photo by Amtrak

The agency noted the NEC is America’s busiest intercity passenger rail corridor, which served 800,000 passengers daily pre-COVID-19 and spans an area that accounts for 20 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product.

The first NEC “Project Inventory” includes 68 projects divided into 15 major backlog projects and 53 capital renewal, train station, and service improvement projects. FRA plans to issue a notice of funding opportunity before the end of the calendar year for the NEC Project Inventory, which it plans to update every two years.

FRA’s Amit Bose. Photo by AASHTO.

By increasing the reliability, frequency, and quality of passenger rail services, these investments will improve the rider experience and provide customers with even more flexible transportation options, noted FRA Administrator Amit Bose.

“Modernizing and expanding the NEC through a transparent and well-organized approach will mean faster trips, fewer disruptions, improved safety, and an overall better experience for the hundreds of thousands of riders who depend on the corridor daily,” he said in a statement.

“The NEC Project Inventory will allow FRA, states, and stakeholders to fully capitalize on the transformative opportunities afforded by the [IIJA] by clearly defining our rail development goals and targeting investments where they are most needed,” Bose added.

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