The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced it has awarded more than $64.5 million to the state of California in Railroad Crossing Elimination (RCE) Grant Program funding for seven projects.
Nationally, the RCE Program will provide over $570 million in funding for 63 projects in 32 states.
How the FRA Funding Helps
This inaugural round of funding will address more than 400 at-grade crossings nationwide, improve safety, and make it easier to get around railroad tracks by adding grade separations, closing at-grade crossings, and improving existing at-grade crossings where train tracks and roads intersect.
Last year, there were more than 2,000 highway-rail crossing collisions in the U.S. and more than 30,000 reports of blocked crossings submitted to FRA’s public complaint portal.
"Every year, commuters, residents, and first responders lose valuable time waiting at blocked railroad crossings – and worse, those crossings are too often the site of collisions that could be prevented,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “As part of President Biden’s Investing in America agenda, we’re improving rail crossings in communities across the country to save lives, time, and resources for American families.”
FRA's History of Delay Complaints
For years, FRA has received complaints from citizens, states, and localities regarding the delays and disruptions caused by frequently blocked crossings that force residents to wait hours at intersections or take detours.
These delays and disruptions can also prevent first responders from getting to emergencies quickly.
Further, more than 2,000 collisions occur every year at highway-rail grade crossings.
Projects Selected for Funding
The projects selected for funding in the first year of this program will greatly improve the quality of life in communities creating safer rail crossings and allowing people to get to and from their homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, fire stations, and workplaces without being stranded and delayed by a standing train.
“The Railroad Crossing Elimination Grant Program is another critical tool that FRA is using to make a lasting impact on the safety and transportation needs of communities nationwide,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “With these project selections and the many more that are to come, we will save lives and reshape infrastructure in ways that allow individuals to move through their neighborhoods seamlessly and safely.”
Along with projects that build or upgrade physical infrastructure at railroad crossings, FRA awarded $15.7 million for planning activities and $33.1 million for project development and design activities that will build a pipeline of projects for future funding.
Twenty two percent of all funding, $127.5 million, was awarded to projects in rural areas or on Tribal lands.
Projects supported by RCE Program funding in California include:
Hargrave Grade Separation Planning Project ($2,800,000)
City of Banning
The project will support the planning and development of a grade separation at Hargrave Street and the adjacent interchange improvement project. These upgrades will greatly reduce the safety risks that motor vehicles and pedestrians face while alleviating traffic congestion in the City of Banning as well as I-10. The City of Banning and Western Riverside Council of Governments are providing a 35% non-Federal match.
Grade Separation at Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive, and Charleston Road ($6,000,000)
City of Palo Alto
The project will improve safety and traffic circulation at grade crossings on Churchill Avenue, Meadow Drive, and Charleston Road. These upgrades will alleviate traffic congestion as the number of Caltrain trains and their frequencies of service increase. Additionally, the Churchill Avenue and Charleston Road grade crossings are in the top 10 locations of FRA's predictive accident list. The City of Palo Alto is providing a 70% non-Federal match.
Third Street Grade Separation Project ($15,000,000)
City of Riverside
The project will support construction of a grade separation at Third Street and the BNSF mainline in the City of Riverside. The project involves building a four-lane underpass and realigning three mainline BNSF tracks to improve train speeds.
The BNSF mainline carries 66 freight trains and a total of 20 Amtrak and commuter trains, all of which will benefit from more efficient service and fewer delays. BNSF, the California Public Utilities Commission, and the California Transportation Commission will contribute funds totaling a 68% non-Federal match.
Los Angeles County Rail Crossing Elimination Master Plan ($600,160)
Los Angeles County
The planning study will help identify all 112 railroad crossings and corridors within unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County. It will then evaluate them to prioritize a list of potential grade separation projects and propose solutions to improve other crossings. Los Angeles County is providing a 20% non-Federal match.
Sierra Highway Crossing Elimination Planning Project ($704,000)
Los Angeles County
The planning project will support a feasibility study on three grade crossings (at Avenue S, Barrel Springs Road, and Sierra Highway) along the Sierra Highway corridor to determine whether grade separations are appropriate. The Avenue S crossing in particular sees significant vehicular and pedestrian traffic, including proximity to a traffic signal that leads to cars blocking the right-of-way.
The other two crossings see high vehicular and train speeds and involve angled curves on approach that limit sight lines for vehicles. This project will reduce the 121 average daily delays at these crossings as well as traffic congestion and collisions. Los Angeles County is providing a 20% non-Federal match.
Doran Street Grade Separation Project ($38,300,000)
The project will help eliminate the at-grade crossing at Doran Street and construct a grade-separated structure that links Los Angeles and Glendale by connecting West San Fernando Road to the Fairmont Avenue bridge.
This project will improve safety and reduce the risk of grade crossing collisions, particularly at Doran Street Crossing, which has one of the highest numbers of safety incidents in Los Angeles County. The L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority is providing a 28% non-Federal match.
San Diego At-Grade Crossing Elimination Study ($1,096,800)
San Diego Association of Governments
The planning project will study 11 at-grade crossings in or near downtown San Diego for grade separation or elimination. The study location is the Los-Angeles-San Diego-San Luis Obispo (LOSSAN) Rail Corridor and will result in recommended improvements for each crossing.
Residential development is forecasted to increase through 2035 in a dense area characterized by multiple train and trolley tracks.
Proposed upgrades would help accommodate heavy volumes of pedestrian and vehicular activity as a result of this growth. The San Diego Association of Governments is providing a 20% non-Federal match.
Over each of the next four years, additional RCE Program funding will be made available annually.