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Three key rail projects win federal funding

September 24, 2020

The US Department of Transportation has announced its 2020 Build and CRISI grant awards.  They included three significant high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects.

In Stockton, CA, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) awarded $20 million to a grade-separation project designed to “improve mobility through the busiest, most congested at-grade rail junction in California.” The $237 million project is key to plans to upgrade the service and frequency of Altamont Corridor Express and Amtrak’s San Joaquins trains from the northern Central Valley to the Bay Area and Sacramento. Those projects, in turn, will improve service on the Central Valley segment of a high-speed line that will eventually run from the Bay Area to L.A.

In a big step forward for the Southeast, North Carolina’s Department of Transportation received $47.5 million to purchase the right-of-way on a rail line owned by CSX, running from Raleigh to Ridgeway, North Carolina. The cities are not currently served by direct passenger or freight service. Purchase of the right of way is a crucial step toward the ultimate goal of creating a 110 mph line between Raleigh and Richmond, Virginia. More immediately, the tracks could be used for a commuter line between downtown Raleigh and nearby Wake Forest University.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation received nearly $32 million for infrastructure upgrades to the line serving Milwaukee and Minneapolis/St. Paul, which will advance plans for a second daily train between the cities. Amtrak’s current line between Milwaukee and the Twin Cities, the Empire Builder, runs just once a day and is frequently delayed. (Service will soon be reduced to three times a week because of the covid-19 pandemic). The upgrades—which will include improved grade crossings and extended rail sidings—are expected to improve the trains’ reliability. The line will have 12 stops and is expected to provide up to 150,000 annual rides.