FRA awards RRIF loan No. 9 to Riverport Railroad (3/15/2005)


Perhaps the procedures put in place last year by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to streamline the application process for the four-year-old Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program are speeding up loan approvals. Yesterday, the agency awarded RRIF loan No. 9, totaling more than $5.5 million, to the Riverport Railroad L.L.C. less than two months after awarding loan No. 8 ($7.5 million) to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad.

Riverport Railroad serves about 30 shippers in northwestern Illinois, provides switching services for BNSF Railway Co., and stores, cleans and maintains empty rail cars. The 68-mile short line plans to use loan proceeds to upgrade six track miles with heavier rail to accommodate 286,000-pound cars; relocate 9.6 track miles from land owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; acquire real estate to increase car storage capacity 33 percent to 4,000 units; build a bulk commodity yard and transload facility; and construct a marshalling yard to store up to 110-car trains.

Launched in 1999, Riverport Railroad controls infrastructure and facilities previously owned by the Savanna Army Ordnance Depot.

The RRIF program authorizes the FRA to provide $3.5 billion in direct loans or loan guarantees to eligible railroads (including $1 billion set aside for regionals and short lines), state and local governments, and government-sponsored authorities to acquire, develop, improve or rehabilitate intermodal or rail facilities. Funding up to 100 percent of the cost of an approved railroad project, the loans include repayment periods up to 25 years and interest rates equal to the cost of borrowing to the federal government.

Since 2001, the FRA has issued other RRIF loans to Amtrak, Mount Hood Railroad, Arkansas & Missouri Railroad Co., Nashville & Western Railroad, Stillwater Central Railroad Co., Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad Corp., and Wheeling & Lake Erie Railway Co.

The Bush Administration's proposed fiscal-year 2006 budget would eliminate the program. However, American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association officials believe there's enough support on Capitol Hill to keep RRIF afloat.

Source: Progressive Railroading Daily News