The Lead

Passenger and freight rail projects in 32 states, including Pa., get millions from U.S. DOT

By: - June 2, 2022 3:21 pm

The train station in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (Getty Images)

WASHINGTON —  The U.S. government is doling out millions of dollars to railroad projects throughout the country in hopes of improving supply chains and passenger rail service.

The announcement by the Biden administration of $368 million in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements will go to more than 46 projects designed to improve safety and broaden the nation’s rail infrastructure.

“Passenger rail represents an affordable way for millions of Americans to travel between cities for work, to visit families and more, while freight rail helps to get essential goods to our store shelves with lower costs and a lower carbon footprint than most other modes of transportation,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on a call with reporters Wednesday.

“And yet we’re seeing our rail industry today struggling,” he continued.

Railroads have become congested when cargo moves from shipyards to trains, leading to “higher costs and longer delays for Americans and for businesses,” Buttigieg said.

Rural communities

The grants will go to projects in 32 states, with nearly double the 25 percent minimum investment going to rural communities, according to Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration Amit Bose.

The rural projects, Bose said, include $8.3 million for a Florida Panhandle rural capacity expansion, “which will allow the Florida Gulf and Atlantic Railroad to move critical goods in rural areas,” as well as $11 million to upgrade the Cimarron Valley Railroad in southwest Kansas that will “help agricultural and biodiesel producers move more goods more quickly.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation would get $6.2 million to upgrade “18 miles of rail in rural areas which is going to allow for heavier loads, more reliable service and safer working conditions,” Buttigieg said.

A total of $57.9 million, Buttigieg said, would go towards “supporting surveys and preliminary engineering to lay the groundwork for new intercity passenger rail from Raleigh to Richmond and providing better service for underserved and minority rural communities.”

Morgan State University, a Historically Black College and University in Baltimore, will receive $4.6 million to create a railroad engineering program that’s expected to be modeled after the University of Delaware’s railroad engineering program.

Here are the Pennsylvania projects that are receiving funding:

Gettysburg State and Private Investments Driving Economic Recovery Project, Gettysburg & Northern Railroad Co. (Up to $1,840,000): “The proposed project will rehabilitate approximately 24 miles of the Gettysburg & Northern Railway (GET) mainline in Adams and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania. The project will improve the track to Class 2 safety standards and operating speeds, construct a new runaround track adjacent to existing track, upgrade 16 crossings warning devices to LED signals, replace wigwag warning circuitry at two at-grade crossings, and repair seven failed or failing culverts. The project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for rural investment. The Class III GET and Pennsylvania DOT will provide a 55 percent match,” according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Colebrookdale Railroad Infrastructure, Safety & Capacity Upgrade, “The Redevelopment Authority of the County of Berks (Up to $14,681,397):  “The proposed project will rehabilitate approximately 8.6 miles of track with 130-pound continuous welded rail (CWR) to ensure compliance with Class 2 track standards and the ability to able to handle 286,000-pound railcars between Boyertown and Pottstown, Pa. The project will also rehabilitate or replace 14 bridges that are deteriorating, construct two rail-served transload yards, and six new sidings. By providing additional interchange capacity and eliminating load restrictions, this project provides operational capability to meet existing shipper demand and provides additional capacity to meet known unmet shipper demand and anticipated future growth. The project will also address the drainage issues on the corridor and prevent further accidents from occurring, as the railroad corridor acts a funnel and directs large quantities of water to nearby roadways. The applicant will provide a 65 percent match,” according to the U.S. Dept. of Transportation

More to come in 2023

The federal railroad grant program, sometimes shortened to CRISI, will expand next year to provide $1 billion in grants under the bipartisan infrastructure law that Congress approved last year.

“That’s going to allow us to fund even more projects like these, because I can tell you we saw more good applications in this round of the program than we were able to support,” Buttigieg said. “As we do that, we will be creating jobs, reducing delays and enhancing the movement of people and goods across the country.”

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Jennifer Shutt
Jennifer Shutt

Jennifer covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include congressional policy, politics and legal challenges with a focus on health care, unemployment, housing and aid to families.