The Biden administration announced on Monday that over $1.4 million will be granted to projects that will upgrade rail infrastructure across the country.
The funding will go to 70 projects across 35 states and Washington, D.C., and is the largest amount earmarked for this purpose through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.
A press release from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) states that the projects will improve railway safety through “track improvements, bridge rehabilitations, fewer highway-rail grade crossings, upgrades on routes carrying hazardous materials, and more.”
USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in the press release that the expenditures will result in “fewer accidents and delays, faster travel times, and lower shipping costs for the American people.”
“These projects will make American rail safer, more reliable, and more resilient, delivering tangible benefits to dozens of communities where railroads are located, and strengthening supply chains for the entire country.”
More than $178.4 million in federal funding will be used to improve Amtrak in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
The funds will also go toward expanding passenger service to areas that have gone without since the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, according to the press release.
“We’ve been fighting to return passenger trains to the Gulf Coast since it was knocked offline by Hurricane Katrina,” said Jim Mathews, president and CEO of the Rail Passengers Association, in a statement.
“That 17-year journey has been filled with obstacles and frustration — but also moments of joy, where local champions and national advocates were able to come together around the vision of a more connected Gulf Coast region.”
Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) said in a statement that the funds’ allocation is a “significant milestone, representing years of dedicated efforts to reconnect our communities after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.”
“Restoring passenger rail service will create jobs, improve quality of life, and offer a convenient travel option for tourists, contributing to our region’s economic growth and vitality. I appreciate the work of all who have worked tirelessly to bring this project to this point.”
The biggest grant will be roughly $202 million towards improvements in California, which will be used to remove seven rail crossings and convert them to grade-separated crossings. The money will also go towards the final design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction activities for improvements to six other grade crossings and track-related improvements.
The removal of the crossings will allow for the development of a high-speed railroad to help first responders travel, reported the Associated Press.
Amit Bose, administrator at the Federal Railroad Administration, said in the USDOT press release that the agency is using the funds to advance “even more projects and laying the groundwork for further transformation.”
“The selected projects will tackle issues facing communities and invest in a 21st century rail network yielding greater benefits – faster and more reliable deliveries of goods, safer communities, cleaner transportation, and more jobs and workforce development opportunities.”