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Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) announced it awarded a $10.9 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) IV grant to the city of West Memphis, Ark. to expand its port. The project was one of 47 selected by the USDOT in June 2012 to receive TIGER IV funding.The grant will help cover the cost to improve rail infrastructure at the West Memphis International Rail Port Logistics Park. The nearly $27 million project calls for upgrading and strengthening existing rail to accommodate heavier loads, and extending a spur 13,500 feet to the base of the St. Francis Levee to provide direct access between rail and waterborne cargo, as well as increase the rail port's annual coal capacity to about 15 million tons.Future planned developments include a loop track, transload facility and barge dock to support exports of coal, grain, steel and petrochemicals via rail and barge.The Port of West Memphis currently handles about 7,500 tons of cargo per month, mostly by barge. Last year, the port handled 800 rail cars; when the project is completed in 2016, it is projected to handle 350 cars per week, USDOT officials said in a press release. BNSF Railway Co. and Union Pacific Railroad operate mainlines through West Memphis.The project will help position the port and region as a freight transportation leader, attracting development and jobs to West Memphis, USDOT officials said. In addition, the work will enable the greater Memphis region to diversify its intermodal freight transportation system by connecting western freight railroads with the Mississippi River for export and import shipments of bulk commodities, they said."Helping attract private development at the industrial park will translate into new businesses and jobs in Memphis, while supporting the President's goal to double exports by the end of 2014," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
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