The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) yesterday issued a notice of funding opportunity (NOFO) for more than $244 million in grant funding under the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) program. The program fiscal-year 2019 NOFO will fund projects that increase rail transportation safety, efficiency and reliability, FRA officials said in a press release. The CRISI grant program "is an important resource for railroads to upgrade infrastructure and for communities to enhance safety on tracks and at railroad crossings,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Eligible applications will include projects that address congestion challenges, highway-rail grade crossings, upgrade short-line railroad infrastructure, relocate rail lines, improve intercity passenger rail capital assets, and deploy railroad safety technology. Freight- and passenger-rail infrastructure projects are eligible to apply. At least 25 percent of the available funds will be reserved for projects in rural areas. In evaluating grant applications, the FRA will consider how projects support key objectives including enhancing economic vitality; leveraging federal funding; adopting life-cycle cost accounting; using innovative approaches to improve safety and expediting project delivery; and holding grant recipients accountable for achieving specific, measurable outcomes. Preference will be given to projects where the proposed federal share of total costs does not exceed 50 percent. "These CRISI grants support safe rail systems around the country, and I encourage eligible parties with creative and innovative projects to apply by the deadline," FRA Administrator Ronald Batory said. Grant applications under the FY19 CRISI NOFO are due 60 days after the date of publication in the Federal Register. On Sept. 4, the FRA is scheduled to offer web-based training and technical assistance for eligible applicants.