Texas House Committee on Transportation recommends using the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund for matching IIJA rail grants
In the November 2022 Interim Report to the 88th Texas Legislature, the House Committee on Transportation issued this recommendation on Interim Charge 3:
TRANSPORTATION PLANNING URGENCY Study current and future transportation needs and consider improvements to ensure that Texas is adequately planning for the state's population growth forecasts.
"The Legislature should appropriate funding into the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund to be used as a strategic funding mechanism to assist the rail industry in seizing IIJA rail grant funds for improvements to the state's rail infrastructure. "
Texas Rail Advocates is asking the legislature for a kickstart appropriation of $200 million directed to the Texas Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund ($40 million a year over a 5 year period).
The fund is to be used to apply for new and expanded competitive federal grants for freight and conventional passenger rail projects from the Federal Railroad Administration, made available under the Infrastructure Law passed by Congress.
These rail grants, for the first time ever, require as little as a 20% state share. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to fund rail projects in the TxDOT State Rail Plan and help move people and goods in Texas.
A Constitutional fund to provide a method of financing the relocation and improvement of privately and publicly owned passenger and freight rail facilities to: relieve congestion on public highways, enhance public safety, improve air quality, expand economic opportunity and construct railroad underpasses and overpasses if a part of the relocation of a rail facility. Receives proceeds from bonds and notes and dedications and appropriations made by the legislature.
In 2009 Texans approved a Constitutional Amendment creating the Rail Relocation and Improvement Fund. It would direct the Texas Department of Transportation and their Rail Division to be involved in the planning, programming and construction of freight and passenger rail projects to move goods and people in our state.
The mechanism is in place but to date, the legislature has not appropriated the first dollar in the RRIF. That means Texas could not leverage billions of dollars over the last 10 years that the federal government has distributed to many other states in matching funds and special grants. If the state doesn't put some skin in the game, you lose the federal funds.
Let's not let another two years go by and watch dozens of other states benefit from federal rail programs while Texas stands by in idle. We want to work with our state legislators and make them aware that rail funding has been on a dead-end siding.
Here's just one recent example of a federal funding opportunity that Texas missed.
Just look what could be accomplished in Texas from the recently released Texas Rail Plan from the Texas Department of Transportation. Pages and pages of unfunded projects just waiting for public-private partnerships or state-federal funding matches.
|2018-2020||Restoration & Enhancement Grant||$ 26,337,600|
|2017-2020||State of Good Repair||$ 272,000,000|
|2019||RR Trespass Enforcement Grant||$ 150,000|
|2019||Fed-State Partnership SOGR||$ 396,000,000|
|2017||Positive Train Control Grant||$ 199,000,000|
|2017||Restoration & Enhancement Grant||$ 4,796,500|
|2016||RR Safety Infrastruct Improv Grant||$ 25,000,000|
|2010-2016||RR Sefety Tech Grants (total)||$ 87,000,000|
|2015||Safe Transport of Energy Products||$ 10,000,000|
|2008-2011||Rail Relo & Improvement Cap Grant||$ 90,000,000|
|2008-2010||HS Intercity Pax Rail HSIPR||$ 10,000,000,000|
|2008||Capital Assist States-Intercity Pax||$ 30,000,000|
|2008||RR Rehab & Repair Disaster Assist||$ 20,000,000|