Fully fund the CRISI program at the $1 billion authorized discretionary appropriations level annually.
Ensure a level playing field in the competitive process.
Short lines play such an important role in the railroad network that we have, and we want to do everything possible to make sure that they are robust and have the funding to make the improvements that they need…the CRISI program is such a great tool to do that.
Amit Bose, FRA administrator, June 14, 2022
Short lines provide a critical connection between the U.S. and the global economy for multiple industries - particularly in small town and rural America. The short line industry's 600 small business railroads operate 50,000 miles of track, much of which was abandoned after decades of neglect by prior owners. As the first- and last- mile provider to more than 10,000 shippers nationwide, short line railroads must keep pace with technology and upgrade outdated rail to ensure the continued seamless movement of goods and freight throughout the U.S. freight rail system.
The CRISI program is vital for maintaining this infrastructure. Short line railroads can apply directly (rather than with or through other government entities) for grants that provide transformative improvements to the freight network and enhance the supply chain.
Recognizing the Need, Congress Took Action
- 2015 — Congress recognizes the massive upgrades necessary for short line freight rail and creates CRISI, making Class II and Class Ill short line railroads directly eligible recipients of competitive funds from USDOT.
- 2017 — USDOT awards the first set of CRISI grants, providing short lines with network-transformational resources to upgrade ties, siding, ballast, and track so that industry-standard 286,000-lb railcars can move safely and efficiently.
- 2021 — Congress passes the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), recognizing the many unfunded, critical upgrades that continue to face the national rail network. The IIJA provides advance appropriations of $1 billion per year for five years, and authorizes an additional $1 billion per year. Eligibility for upgrading locomotives to achieve significant reductions in emissions is also added.
- 2022 — USDOT awards the final round of grants prior to the IIJA implementation’s new levels. Of the $368 million awarded, 24 of 46 grant projects totaling $150 million benefit short lines. These projects will make freight rail transportation safer and more affordable than ever in the areas they serve while providing the most environmentally friendly surface transportation mode available.
- 2023 — In September, $1.44 billion is awarded in the first round of CRISI grants post-Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, representing $1B that was appropriated in advance plus additional funds from the FY 2022 appropriations process. A record $720 million in funding was awarded to 47 short line railroad projects across 36 states, representing 2/3 of the total awards, and more than 50 percent of the monies awarded. The short line projects selected for this round of CRISI grant funding include transformational improvements to short line rail infrastructure that will address the number one cause of short line derailments (worn-out track and ties), rehabilitate and upgrade the capacity of older bridges, improve safety and prevent trespassing at grade crossings, deploy rail safety technology, and reduce emissions from locomotives.
Learn More about Applying for CRISI Grants
Examples of CRISI Funded Projects on Short Line Railroads
To maximize the value of the CRISI Grant Program, Congress should:
– Provide a full authorization — coupled with the advance appropriations — allowing more railroads to double down on safety enhancements, bolster network fluidity, move more freight off highways to a greener, more sustainable alternative, and help ensure rural and urban communities can move goods efficiently to U.S. and world markets.
– Avoid provisions that would limit, or carve out, available funds from being used to bolster the freight network.