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Rail News: Federal Legislation & Regulation

USDOT doles out 46 TIGER III grants totaling $511 million


Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced that 46 transportation projects in 33 states and Puerto Rico will receive a total of $511 million from the third round of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program.

Rail-related projects received grants totaling $279 million, according to the National Railroad Construction & Maintenance Association (NRC). The USDOT had received 848 TIGER III grant applications from all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., requesting a total of $14.3 billion.
“The overwhelming demand for these grants clearly shows that communities across the country can’t afford to wait any longer for Congress to put Americans to work building the transportation projects that are critical to our economic future,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a prepared statement. “That’s why we will continue to ask Congress to make the targeted investments we need to create jobs, repair our nation’s transportation systems, better serve the traveling public and our nation’s businesses, factories and farms, and make sure our economy continues to grow.”

In November, President Obama directed the USDOT to accelerate the TIGER III grant review and approval process months ahead of a planned spring 2012 recipient announcement. About 48 percent of the grant funding will support road and bridge projects; 29 percent will support transit projects; and 10 percent will support freight-rail projects, including the Paducah & Louisville Railway Inc.’s planned Muldraugh bridge replacement in Kentucky, according to the USDOT.

Among dozens of individual grant announcements, U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.) hailed a $16.8 million TIGER III grant the Port of New Orleans will receive to construct a freight-rail terminal and finance other improvements to support better cargo operations.

Through the Mississippi River Intermodal Terminal and Yard Improvements project, the port plans to relocate and reconfigure an existing rail yard into a new 12-acre freight-rail terminal at the Napoleon Avenue Container Terminal, and construct four acres of heavy-duty concrete paving for cargo handling and storage at the Louisiana Avenue Terminal.

“As the only deep water port in the United States with six Class Is, this new rail terminal will allow the port to be even more competitive nationally and internationally,” said Richmond in a prepared statement, adding that the project will reduce road congestion and promote environmentally sustainable shipping.

The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) announced it will receive a $6.56 million TIGER III grant to help fund rail improvements between Solomon and Downs. The project calls for upgrading 84 miles of track operated by the Kyle Railroad, including the installation of 50,400 ties and improvements to 24 grade crossings.

Because of poor tie condition on the line, the railroad can only handle 263,000-pound rail cars and must restrict train speed to 10 mph, according to KDOT. The $8.2 million project — 80 percent of which will be federal funded — will enable the short line to handle 286,000-pound cars and boost speed to 25 mph. KDOT plans to solicit bids for the project in spring and complete work in summer.

Meanwhile, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) announced it will receive a $6.8 million TIGER III grant to upgrade a 49-mile, state-owned line operated by Farmrail Inc. between Sayre and Elk City. The line is used to transport sand to Sayre for hydraulic fracturing operations at wells in the Anadarko Basin area and to move outbound crude oil. The project will enable Farmrail to boost train speed from 10 mph to 25 mph and handle more cars on the line, according to ODOT.

In the Northeast, U.S. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) announced the state of Massachusetts will receive a $10 million TIGER III grant to help fund repairs to the Merrimack Railroad River Bridge in Haverhill, Mass. Grant proceeds will be used to help repair three bridges along Amtrak’s Downeaster track that connects coastal New Hampshire and Maine with the greater Boston area.

“We’ve been working at this a long time. This is absolutely needed to sustain more high-speed passenger and freight trains, less congestion, easier commutes and jobs,” said Kerry in a prepared statement.
Earlier this year, Kerry wrote a letter to LaHood urging him to fully fund the project. Kerry and several other congressmen had sought $77 million in federal funding because the deteriorating Merrimack bridge currently bottlenecks traffic as trains reduce speed to 15 mph to pass over the structure safely. Restoring the bridge also would help facilitate the expansion of daily service on the Downeaster from five roundtrips to seven, according to the congressmen.

In terms of the next round of the TIGER program, the recently completed fiscal-year 2012 appropriations process in Congress included $500 million for a TIGER IV program, which will be put into motion next year, NRC officials said in a special bulletin.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 12/16/2011