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Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker announced yesterday $37 million in grants and loans for six freight-rail improvements as part of the state's Freight Railroad Assistance Program.The program was designed to increase the use of freight-rail transportation and to support economic development and job creation, according to a press release issued by the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT).The WisDOT will distribute $29.6 million in grants through the Freight Railroad Preservation Program (FRPP). An FRPP grant covers up to 80 percent of project costs to help preserve freight-rail service or rehabilitate track on publicly owned rail lines.In addition, the department will provide loans worth $7.4 million through the state's Freight Railroad Infrastructure Program (FRIIP), a revolving loan program used to improve rail infrastructure and construct new rail-served facilities.Grant recipients are the Port of Milwaukee and the Wisconsin and Southern Railroad Co. (WSOR).The port received a $1,763,520 grant to rehabilitate and reconstruct 15 road crossings within the port. Track within the crossings is deteriorated. The project will replace the road crossing surfaces and 3,340 linear feet of new 115-pound rail. The port will provide $440,880 in local matching funds toward the project's $2.2 million cost.WSOR received four project awards. They are for:• the Merrimac Bridge rehabilitation, which received a $14.4 million FRPP grant to cover 80 percent of the design, engineering and rehabilitation costs of Bridge 334, which crosses Lake Wisconsin at Merrimac. WSOR also will receive an FRIIP loan of up to $1.8 million to WSOR to cover 10 percent of the project's total cost. The remaining 10 percent will be provided by the railroad and the Wisconsin River Trail Transit Commission. Engineering studies have shown the project to be necessary to keep the Madison-Reedsburg rail line operational for 286,000-pound carloads.• the Reedsburg and Prairie Subdivision Bridge replacement and rehabilitation. A $1,971,760 FRPP grant will cover 80 percent of the $2,464,700 project cost to replace and rehabilitate nine bridges in Crawford, Dane, Grant, Iowa and Richland counties. WSOR will provide the 20 percent matching funds, half of which will be financed with an FRIIP loan of $246,470. The Reedsburg and Prairie subdivisions are jointly owned by WisDOT and the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission.• the Fox Lake Subdivision Phase II rail replacement. A $7,541,600 FRPP grant and $942,700 FRIIP loan were provided to rehabilitate 12.9 miles of track between Walworth and Zenda, up to the Illinois state line. This effort will complete a multiyear project to rehabilitate 21.5 miles of track on the Fox Lake Subdivision in Rock and Walworth counties. It includes reconstructing two public crossings, 16 private crossings, three turnouts, replacing worn out 90-pound rail with 115-pound continuous welded rail (CWR) and installing 13,350 new ties over 12.9 miles of track. When complete, the total project on the Janesville–Fox Lake line will include 30,000 new ties, new ballast with tamping and surfacing of the railroad bed, and installation of 21.5 miles of new 115-pound CWR.• the Oshkosh Subdivision Phase I rail replacement, which received a $3,942,240 FRPP grant toward a $4.9 million project. The effort involves replacing existing 85- and 90-pound rail with 115-pound CWR on 7.5 miles of track between Brandon and Ripon. Seven public crossings and 13 turnouts also will be reconstructed. WSOR and the East Wisconsin Counties Railroad Consortium will provide the 20 percent local match of $985,560, half of which will be financed with an FRIIP loan of $492,780. The Oshkosh Subdivision is jointly owned by WisDOT and WSOR. Also receiving an FRIIP loan is the Country Visions Cooperative in Wrightstown. The co-op's $4 million loan will go toward an $8.5 million project to construct a rail-served fertilizer facility in the village, which is located in Outagamie County.Since 1994, WisDOT has provided more than $225 million in FRPP grants and more than $127 million in FRIIP loans to help fund 166 infrastructure acquisition, rehabilitation and improvement projects statewide.