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FY2018 TIGER grant award announcements

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I have not posted much here lately, but I saw a news report on an announcement of a FY2018 TIGER grant award, so went looking for more reports. Yes, the TIGER grant program is still alive for FY2018 with a total $500 million in funding to award. The announcements so far are by various politicians and local governments to local news media; won't have a complete list until the US DOT issues one, presumably in several days, once the politicians each issue their own press releases and get their names in the news.

 

One grant award that is relevant to Amtrak is $16 million in track improvements for the Southwest Chief route. This is the 3rd TIGER grant for rehabilitation of another segment of the Colorado to Raton Pass route.

 

Pueblo News Chieftain article: Feds award $16M grant to Southwest Chief project. Excerpt:

 

Federal transportation officials have awarded a $16 million grant to rehabilitate track for Amtrak's Southwest Chief, Sen. Cory Gardner's office announced Tuesday.

The grant was sought by Pueblo County and a consortium of communities along the Southwest Chief's route across southern Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico. Including more than $9 million in pledges from those communities, the entire project amounts to $25.2 million.

 

"This should finish off the rail repair between La Junta and Newton (Kan.) as well as the work in Raton Pass," said Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who is chairman of the Southwest Chief and Front Range Passenger Rail Commission.

 

My searches for other FY2018 Tiger grant awards announced so far turned up mostly road projects. And mostly in rural or suburban areas at that. But there might be a few local passenger or freight rail grants in the mix.

 

Will have to wait for the complete list of grants from the US DOT to see how much the emphasis in TIGER grant selections has shifted from the Obama Administration to the US DOT under the control of Secretary Chao.

Edited by afigg

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OK, found a $9 million TIGER grant award to Spokane, WA to eliminate or separate 2 grade crossings of BNSF tracks. Press release from Senator Murray (D-WA) on the award: TRANSPORTATION: Senators Murray, Cantwell Secure Major Investment for Spokane Valley to Improve Barker Road Railway Intersection.

 

Digging a bit into it, this is for a grade separation for a Barker road in Spokane over or under a BNSF track (http://www.spokanevalley.org/BarkerBNSF). Does the Empire Builder operate on those particular BNSF track(s)?

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Digging a bit into it, this is for a grade separation for a Barker road in Spokane over or under a BNSF track (http://www.spokanevalley.org/BarkerBNSF). Does the Empire Builder operate on those particular BNSF track(s)?

 

That is on the Spokane Subdivision so the Empire Builder would benefit from the improvement.

 

 

Nit pick: Correct that the line hosts Amtrak, bur I believe this is on the BNSF Kootenai River Subdivision (Whitefish to Spokane).

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Digging a bit into it, this is for a grade separation for a Barker road in Spokane over or under a BNSF track (http://www.spokanevalley.org/BarkerBNSF). Does the Empire Builder operate on those particular BNSF track(s)?

 

That is on the Spokane Subdivision so the Empire Builder would benefit from the improvement.

 

 

Nit pick: Correct that the line hosts Amtrak, bur I believe this is on the BNSF Kootenai River Subdivision (Whitefish to Spokane).

 

 

 

I guess you could be right. The BNSF timetable Montana Division Timetable (9) that states the Kootenai River Subdivision ends at Sandpoint Jct. At this point, it now becomes the Spokane Subdivision which is part of BNSF's Northwest Division. The division timetable (7) shows Barker Road as mp 58.93 on the Spokane Sub. .

 

However, these timetables may be out of date and the divisional boundaries may have changed.

Edited by Thirdrail7

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Nit pick: Correct that the line hosts Amtrak, bur I believe this is on the BNSF Kootenai River Subdivision (Whitefish to Spokane).

 

I guess you could be right. The BNSF timetable Montana Division Timetable (9) that states the Kootenai River Subdivision ends at Sandpoint Jct. At this point, it now becomes the Spokane Subdivision which is part of BNSF's Northwest Division. The division timetable (7) shows Barker Road as mp 58.93 on the Spokane Sub. .

 

However, these timetables may be out of date and the divisional boundaries may have changed.

 

 

Oddly, the BNSF Kootenia River Subdivision spans two divisions - the Montana and the Northwest. Most of the Kootenia River SD is within the Montana Division, but from MP 1401.2 (old Great Northern MP about 2 miles east of Sandpoint) to MP 71,5 (old Northern Pacific MP at Spokane), the Kootenia River SD is under the jurisdiction of the BNSF Northwest Division. One subdivision, two divisions. I guess it is one of those situations that is what it is.

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Another grade crossing separation project received a FY2018 TIGER grant, this one for Raleigh, NC. $19.9 million towards building an underpass for Blue Ridge Road which crosses the tracks between the Raleigh and Cary stations. So it goes towards eliminating a busy grade crossing on a portion of the Piedmont corridor which is used by the Piedmonts, Carolinian, and the Silver Star.

 

Raleigh News & Observer: Feds will help pay for Blue Ridge Road underpass. Excerpts:

 

The N.C. Department of Transportation has won a $19.9 million grant to help pay for a project that will eliminate what NCDOT calls the most complicated intersection in North Carolina. About two dozen trains a day cross Blue Ridge Road at the intersection with Hillsborough and a third street, Beryl Road.

 

The state plans to send Blue Ridge more than 20 feet below grade under new bridges for Hillsborough, Beryl and the railroad tracks.

 

But there is this:

It's all expected to cost about $33.5 million, and NCDOT already had the money set aside for it. The grant will allow NCDOT to spend that $19.9 million elsewhere, said spokesman Steve Abbott.

If NCDOT already had the state funding in place, why award NC $19.9 million for the project? Why not for another grade separation project that applied for funding? Can't help but wonder if politics was a factor in this grant award selection.

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US DOT has posted the complete list of FY2018 Tiger grant awards to 41 projects in 43 states: https://www.transportation.gov/tiger. No additional projects that appear to be relevant to Amtrak or commuter rail. Several grants for freight rail lines, such as "Repair of the Jaype to Lewiston Rail Line, Clearwater County, Idaho, $3,240,960".

 

Excerpts from the announcement:

 

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Transportation (US DOT) today announced the list of 41 recipients of nearly $500 million in discretionary grant funding for road, transit, maritime and rail projects through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program.

 

and this bit:

More than 64% of this round of TIGER funding was awarded to rural projects, a historic number that demonstrates this Administration’s commitment to supporting the country’s rural communities.

 

There are a few grants for local transit and trails, but my take is these awards are tilted toward road projects. One track repair project for the SW Chief route, 2 grade separation projects in the road safety and traffic improvement category, several freight rail projects (and nothing for Chicago CREATE if they submitted an application).

 

Next up for US DOT grants, I think, are award selections from the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program, which replaced the Obama Administration FASTLANE program.

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Another grade crossing separation project received a FY2018 TIGER grant, this one for Raleigh, NC. $19.9 million towards building an underpass for Blue Ridge Road which crosses the tracks between the Raleigh and Cary stations. So it goes towards eliminating a busy grade crossing on a portion of the Piedmont corridor which is used by the Piedmonts, Carolinian, and the Silver Star.

 

Raleigh News & Observer: Feds will help pay for Blue Ridge Road underpass. Excerpts:

 

The N.C. Department of Transportation has won a $19.9 million grant to help pay for a project that will eliminate what NCDOT calls the most complicated intersection in North Carolina. About two dozen trains a day cross Blue Ridge Road at the intersection with Hillsborough and a third street, Beryl Road.

 

The state plans to send Blue Ridge more than 20 feet below grade under new bridges for Hillsborough, Beryl and the railroad tracks.

 

But there is this:

It's all expected to cost about $33.5 million, and NCDOT already had the money set aside for it. The grant will allow NCDOT to spend that $19.9 million elsewhere, said spokesman Steve Abbott.

If NCDOT already had the state funding in place, why award NC $19.9 million for the project? Why not for another grade separation project that applied for funding? Can't help but wonder if politics was a factor in this grant award selection.

Given that unrestricted money is fungible amongst projects but other sources of revenue aren't, it's possible that there was a desire to fund something that wasn't strictly eligible and this was done as a workaround. After all, how often have we seen CMAQ funding show up in odd places? The way things are set up right now is rather crazy, after all...

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Yes, it is possible that the $19.9 million to NC DOT for the Blue Ridge Road grade separation was applied for because NC DOT and the local governments were actually short of the funds needed to start the contract on time. Shuffling funds and pots of money for projects and contracts around is an essential bureaucratic skill.

 

My subject title calling this round of grants as FY2018 announcements may be incorrect. The US DOT website is calling these grants 2017 grants so these may be FY2017 funds that were allocated after the fiscal year because the delays in the US DOT process and that Congress is passing the actual appropriations bills ever later in the fiscal year after months of continuing resolutions. This round is Tiger IX.

 

The complete list of applications, apparently including the applications submitted for this round, is up on the TIGER website on the TIGER Application List page if anyone is interested in reviewing the titles, states, and categories of what was requested. Can download the list as an Excel or PDF file. There were a number of transit and passenger rail and grade separation projects that did not get selected this time around. Massachussets MBTA applied for $10 for a Back Bay Station Intermodal Improvement Project, whatever that covers. NJT applied for $31 million for a Newark Penn Station Platform D Improvement Project to pick out 2 NEC station applications.

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Tilted toward rural areas and low-impact projects.

 

Failure to fund CREATE is going to irritate a very large number of people. But this seems par for the course in this administration of idiots. It's looking now like Gateway will be funded directly by Congress and that they will override any veto.

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