The state of Wisconsin recently appropriated $52 million for the Freight Railroad Preservation Program (FRPP) in the 2013-15 biennial budget. The program was allotted $30 million in the state's 2011-13 biennial budget.
FRPP is one of two freight-rail funding assistance programs administered by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. Originally created in 1977 and revised in 1992, FRPP provides grants to railroads, industries and local government agencies to preserve or rehabilitate essential rail lines.
Grants cover up to 80 percent of the cost to purchase abandoned rail lines in an effort to continue freight service or preserve the opportunity for future rail service, or rehabilitate track or bridges on publicly owned rail lines. The state owns many of the rail lines in Wisconsin.
FRPP stood to lose funding in the current state budget, but instead obtained an appropriation that increased almost 75 percent compared with the 2011-13 biennial budget, according to an item in the July edition of the Watco Cos. L.L.C.'s "The Dispatch" newsletter. Watco Director of Government Relations Ken Lucht and others coordinated an effort to increase FRPP funding, the news item states.
Lucht previously served as manager of community development for the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co., a regional now owned by Watco that previously benefitted from FRPP grants to help keep track and bridges in good condition. Lucht and other stakeholders met with Wisconsin Joint Finance Committee members to stress the jobs that rail helps create in the state.
There are more than 3,000 rail workers in Wisconsin, and for each railroad job, 4.5 additional jobs are created in the state, according to the news item.
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