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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is accepting applications for $2.5 million to $3 million in available grants through the state's Shortline Industrial Access Program (SIAP). Applications are due Jan. 8.The SIAP provides funding to help short lines upgrade and modernize their infrastructure, and "better serve industries in primarily rural areas," NCDOT officials said in a press release. The grants support rural economic development by helping maintain connections to the national rail network, ensuring that industries can receive and ship materials across the country, they said.Currently, 21 short lines operate about 930 miles of track in the state, or 29 percent of total freight-rail trackage in North Carolina.Projects eligible for grants include rail infrastructure rehabilitation, improvements and construction, and bridge inspections. NCDOT will reimburse up to half of project costs. Grants also can be used to help defray the costs of preparing or obtaining a Railroad Rehabilitation and Infrastructure Financing loan from the Federal Railroad Administration.Grant awards will be based on need and a project's economic and transportation benefits to the state, NCDOT officials said.