Last week, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced plans to provide $6.4 billion over the next two years for the state's transportation infrastructure.
As part of Wisconsin's budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015, the state will prioritize existing revenue streams and "make sensible operational reforms" to continue maintaining and developing infrastructure projects, Walker said in a press release.
“My budget will invest in Wisconsin’s strong network of roads, bridges, highways, ports, airports and freight rail,” he said. "We are investing for the long term [because] an efficient, safe transportation system is necessary for growing our economy and creating jobs."
The transportation budget includes $60 million for the Freight Railroad Preservation Program (FRPP) and $10.7 million for the Harbor Assistance Program, which provides grants for port upgrades.
Governed by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, the FRPP program provides grants to local governments, industries and railroads to preserve essential rail lines or rehabilitate rail infrastructure. The grants cover up to 80 percent of the cost to purchase abandoned rail lines or rehabilitate track or bridges on publicly owned rail lines. The Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co. has received a number of FRPP grants from the state in the past.
"A lack of freight-rail service could result in serious economic harm to businesses that rely on affordable and reliable railroads to ship products," Walker said.
Meanwhile, the Ogdensburg Bridge and Port Authority is seeking a $3 million grant from the New York State Department of Transportation to upgrade two New York and Ogdensburg Railway Co. bridges.
Weight restrictions remain in place on the two bridges despite track upgrades to the railroad's 30-mile line between Ogdensburg and Norfolk, N.Y.
Strengthening the two bridges will enable the structures to accommodate rail cars weighing 286,000 pounds instead of the current maximum restriction of 240,000-pound cars, according to the authority. In addition, authority officials believe the upgrades will help generate more traffic on the line.
Owned and operated by the Vermont Rail System, the New York and Ogdensburg Railway serves the Port of Ogdensburg and interchanges with CSX Transportation.
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