White House awards $1.4 billion for rail projects, including California HSR

California’s high-speed rail line won a $202 million federal grant, a drop in the bucket for the massive project but the largest grant among the $1.4 billion awarded Monday by the White House for rail projects across the country.

“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,” transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.

Construction on a future Central Valley crossing for the California high-speed passenger train.

California High Speed Rail Authority

The $1.4 billion will fund 70 rail improvement projects across 35 states and marks the largest amount ever awarded for rail safety and supply chain upgrades through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, which funds the safety, efficiency and reliability of freight and passenger rail and saw its funding tripled under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

The IIJA featured about $8 billion for railroad safety, with $3 billion of that set aside for railroad crossings.

The $202 million grant for the California High Speed Rail Authority will fund improvements at six grade crossings in the Central Valley, which is part of the project’s first segment between Merced, Fresno and Bakersfield. The CHSRA will provide a 20% local match.

“These dollars signal our shared strong commitment to advance clean, electrified high-speed rail into the heart of some of the largest and fastest growing cities in California by the end of this decade,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.

The CHSRA is expected to ask for at least $8 billion in federal funds over the next few years to fund the 171-mile starter segment. The award comes a week after Republicans pressed Buttigieg to drop support for the project, criticizing it as a waste of taxpayer money.

The second-largest grant totals $178 million for Amtrak, in partnership with the Southern Rail Commission, for the Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement project. The rail line will restore passenger service for the first time since 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. The improvements will lead to two new daily round trips between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama.

A $100 million grant in Virginia will build a new rail bridge that will support two new Amtrak round trips and three new commuter rail round trips between Richmond and Washington, D.C.  

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