On August 31, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program FY 2021 notice of funding opportunity (NOFO). The NOFO announces the availability of nearly $360 million in CRISI funding and $2.2 million in funding for related Trespass Prevention projects. CRISI grants, for which counties are eligible to apply, can be used for a wide variety of activities including highway-rail grade crossing improvement, rail line relocation and improvement and multimodal connection enhancement projects.
CRISI grants are a valuable resource for counties, as rail safety remains a critical issue for our communities. Eligible activities under the program reflect critical NACo priorities, improving crossings and separations to allow for safer interactions between road and rail traffic, as well as rail line relocation.
There are 211,000 active highway-rail grade crossings in the U.S., most of which are located within county boundaries. While the CRISI grant program provides funds to address this issue, NACo has consistently advocated for a dedicated at-grade crossing discretionary grant program. This advocacy was reflected in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 (IIJA), which would establish a new, competitive grant program for local governments to address and eliminate at-grade rail crossings. The IIJA is currently under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives after passing the U.S. Senate.
Notably, the 2021 CRISI grant program includes both a rural set-aside and an intercity passenger rail set-aside. According to the NOFO, at least 25 percent of the CRISI funding – or $93.75 million – will be made available for rural projects, while at least $75 million will be made available for projects that support the development of new intercity passenger rail service routes.
Applications for the FY 2021 CRISI grant program are due by November 29, 2021. This year’s NOFO is available here. The FRA plans to host a webinar on the NOFO on September 21, 2021 at 1:00pm Eastern, and you can register for the webinar here.