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1/24/2005



Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

Great Smoky Mountains Railroad lands FRA's eighth RRIF loan



The Federal Railroad Administration recently provided a $7.5 million Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) program loan to the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (GSMR) — the eighth railroad to obtain a loan since the federal program was launched through the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century in 2001.

The 53-mile short line plan to use the loan to upgrade four track miles to heavier rail, replace more than 38,000 ties, and purchase and install three turntables. The railroad also will use some proceeds to refinance existing debt, which will free up funds to pay for maintenance and capital improvements.

Primarily a tourist railroad — GSMR tallied 167,000 passengers in 2004 — Great Smoky moves freight along its North Carolina line.

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 call for repayment periods up to 25 years and interest rates equal to the cost of borrowing to the federal government.

The FRA previously issued 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.


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