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MDOT receives federal $15.6 million grant for safety improvements along rail corridor

Fast facts:
- FRA has awarded MDOT a $15.6 million CRISI grant for trespass prevention and pedestrian safety enhancements along the Michigan Line accelerated rail corridor.
- Enhancement includes adding fencing and improving select grade crossings.
- Owned by MDOT between Kalamazoo and Dearborn, the Michigan Line is used by Amtrak and Norfolk Southern Railroad.

Septembere 23, 2020 – The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) awarded a $15.6 million Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program grant to the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) on Sept. 23 for trespass prevention and pedestrian safety enhancements along the Michigan Line accelerated rail corridor. The grant will allow MDOT to build fencing to prevent trespassing and provide other safety enhancements at select grade crossings in high foot traffic areas along the MDOT-owned segment between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. Both Amtrak passenger trains and Norfolk Southern Railroad freight trains operate on this rail line.   

Locations were identified where train strikes of pedestrians have occurred and where near misses occurred regularly. Safety improvements are proposed in areas where trains travel faster than 90 mph or in high-pedestrian locations, like downtown Dearborn, Eastern Michigan University in Ypsilanti, University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, Albion College, Augusta, Galesburg, and downtown Kalamazoo.

"Each site has unique challenges," said Rob Lippert, MDOT Office of Rail infrastructure manager. "MDOT is working with Amtrak and local officials to effectively construct the improvements needed to safeguard the public." 

Matching the federal grant will be $14.6 million in state funds and $1 million from Amtrak for a total project cost of $31.2 million. Approximately 62 percent of the total project budget will fund improvements in rural areas. 

"Safety is at the core of our Amtrak values and this project will improve safety for our customers, our train crews, and our communities," said Steven Predmore, Amtrak executive vice president and chief safety officer. "Amtrak contributed $1 million to this grant application to reduce trespassing and route pedestrians to safely cross the tracks."

This important safety grant comes at the same time Rail Safety Week is observed to raise awareness of the need for rail safety education and empower the public to keep themselves safe near highway-rail grade crossings and railroad rights of way. From 2016 through 2019, 12 pedestrians have been struck by Amtrak trains and many more near misses have been recorded on the Michigan Line.