The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) launched a new rail safety programme issuing a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) with a USD 5 million available funding for rail research and development of a Centre of Excellence. This is possible under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which “continues to make long overdue and new rail projects a reality in local communities”, FRA says.
This law also invests in research, innovation, technology, and workforce development that are essential to building and maintaining a 21st century rail network.
In March, a USD 1 billion funding was announced to sustain the rail safety projects related to the infrastructure.
“Every year, USDOT – supported research produces new innovations that help tackle key issues in the rail industry, from advancements in inspection and sensor technologies that can prevent accidents to new methods for boosting energy efficiency and rail network resiliency,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said.
The Centre of Excellence is designed as a three-year programme. The announced funding is delivered in annual grant funding from Fiscal Years (FY) 2022 and 2023. Another USD 2.5 million will be made available in FY 2024, subject to the availability of funds, for a total of USD 7.5 million.
Eligible proposals include advances in research, evaluation, education, workforce development, and training efforts related to safety, project delivery, efficiency, reliability, resiliency, and sustainability, including advances in rolling stock, grade crossing safety, advanced Positive Train Control, human factors, inspection and remote sensor technologies, rail systems maintenance, and operational reliability, among others.
Eligible applicants include those with strong past performance related to rail research, education, and workforce development activities. This includes developing transformative research, incorporating climate and clean energy priorities in research, a demonstrated ability to achieve workforce development goals, Minority Serving Institution (MSI)/ Historically Black Colleges and University (HBCU)/ Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) participation, a commitment to underrepresented/underserved communities and economic equity, and the involvement of public and private sector passenger and freight railways. The Centre of Excellence will fund up to 50 percent of the cost of selected proposals.
The new rail safety programme will advance research and development efforts that seek to improve the safety, performance, and sustainability of freight, intercity passenger, and commuter rail.