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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has announced $7 million in matching grant funds that will be awarded to 14 short lines to help pay for infrastructure improvements. The grants are part of the state's Short Line Improvement Program, which supports short-line rail infrastructure health and performance, according to an NCDOT press release."We look forward to seeing the positive impact these grant funds have on North Carolina’s short-line rail infrastructure, which plays a key role in our economy," said Julie White, NCDOT's deputy secretary for multimodal transportation. "These improvements not only spur economic development, but also enhance the safety and reliability of rail operations across the state."Since 2014, the program has provided more than $28 million in matching funds toward 66 rail improvement projects.This year, the following short lines and their projects will receive funding:• Blue Ridge Southern Railroad: repair and upgrade 15 bridges; provide surfacing and tie replacement. Project's total cost: $1.5 million.• Yadkin Valley Railroad: replace 1.8 miles of rail, as well as provide surfacing and cross tie replacement. Total cost: $1.5 million.• Great Smoky Mountains Railroad: replace 1.5 miles of rail and 5,000 cross ties, modernize a bridge and return 1 mile of inactive track to service. Total cost: $1.4 million.• Aberdeen Carolina & Western Railway Co.: replace 2 miles of rail, 5,000 cross ties in curves over 5 miles and a number of switches and switch ties. Total cost: $1.4 million.• Carolina Coastal Railway: replace cross ties and improve subgrade conditions, hardening the railroad in Beaufort and Wilson counties. Total cost: $1.3 million.• North Carolina & Virginia Railroad: replace 2 miles of rail near the North Carolina/Virginia state line. Total cost: $1.3 million.• Laurinburg & Southern Railroad: upgrade crossing surfaces at 12 locations and, in areas where hazardous material will be switched, upgrade 6,710 track feet and nine switches. Total cost: $900,000.• Atlantic & Western Railway: replace 6,850 track feet of rail and improve the Weller Street Crossing. Total Cost: $1 million.• Chesapeake & Albemarle Railroad: upgrade two bridges and replace 5,000 cross ties. In addition, 15 miles of surfacing will be completed. Total cost: $750,000.• Alexander Railroad Co.: replace cross ties on 4 miles of rail line and resurface 5 miles of main track in Alexander and Iredell counties. Total cost: $700,000.• Progressive Rail: replace cross ties throughout the entire 13-mile rail line, including the Belmont Spur. Total Cost: $600,000.• R.J. Corman Railroad: re-establish rail service to an industrial park near Whiteville. Total cost: $600,000.• Wilmington Terminal Railroad: upgrade the Myers Street crossing by replacing the turnout into Colonial and the turnout at North Gate. Total cost: $400,000.• Caldwell County Railroad: install a new turnout, replace cross ties and switch ties. Total cost: $200,000.