On December 7, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a Fiscal Year 2021 Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program (Partnership Program). The competitive Partnership Program aims to reduce the state of good repair backlog by funding projects to repair, replace or rehabilitate railroad assets and improve intercity passenger rail service. The FY 2021 NOFO makes $198 million available, though it does not set an award ceiling or floor. The federal cost share may not exceed 80 percent, and preference will be given to those applications where the federal cost share is 50 percent or less. Counties are eligible to apply directly to the FRA for these grants, and applications are due on March 7, 2022.
Under the FY 2021 NOFO, eligible projects include those that:
- Replace existing assets in-kind
- Replace existing assets with assets that increase capacity or provide a higher level of service
- Ensure that service can be maintained while existing assets are brought to a state of good repair
- Bring existing assets to a state of good repair
The FY 2021 NOFO also expands the definition of eligible Capital Projects to include expenses related to designing, engineering, location surveying, mapping, environmental studies and acquiring rights-of-way.
FRA will evaluate applications based on their support of key US Department of Transportation (USDOT) objectives including:
- Equitable economic strength and improving core assets
- Ensuring investments meet racial equity and economic inclusion goals
- Resilience and addressing climate change
- Transformation of the nation’s transportation infrastructure
The Partnership Program is an excellent example of the coordinated federal-state-local effort necessary to return rail service to its appropriate place in a balanced national transportation system. Notably, the new bipartisan law, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA/P.L. 117-58), will increase funding for the Partnership Program, authorizing up to $42.5 billion for the program over five years, for which counties will also be eligible for.