It's not just states that are getting funds for "shovel-ready" infrastructure projects as part of the federal stimulus package.
Homeland security agencies are receiving $3 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for use on transportation and other projects. Many of those projects will benefit shippers and railroads.
For example, the U.S. Coast Guard is getting $240 million. Out of that, $142 million will be used to repair or upgrade railroad bridges, including the Mobile Bridge in Hurricane, Ala., the EJ&E Bridge in Devine, Ill., the Burlington Bridge in Burlington, Iowa, and the Galveston Causeway Railroad Bridge in Galveston, Texas.
The ARRA funding for bridge alterations will leverage an additional $120.4 million in previously appropriated non-ARRA funds, making a total of $262.4 million available for the bridge alteration projects and economic stimulus overseen by the Coast Guard.
The bridges that will be improved are identified as unreasonable obstructions to navigation. The Truman-Hobbs Act requires the bridges be upgraded or improved to ensure safe navigation.
The Galveston Causeway Railroad Bridge's restrictive 104-foot horizontal clearance, along with other factors, has led to more than 100 allisions since 1990, causing millions of dollars in damage. (an allision occurs when a moving object strikes a fixed object — a barge hitting a bridge, for example).
The Galveston project would replace the existing bridge with a vertical lift bridge.
On April 20, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., announced the USCG would funnel $19.8 million to Alabama for repairs on the 14 Mile CSX Railroad Bridge over the Mobile River, site of one of the worst derailments in Amtrak's history in 1993 after one or more barges struck the bridge.
“The replacement of the bridge will save shippers millions of dollars annually in lost time and accidents, and will greatly assist in the shipment of cargo moving through the Alabama State Docks," Shelby said.
It's a reminder of the critical role the USCG plays in commerce and navigation — as well as national security — far inland, as well as in U.S. offshore waters and overseas. Last I heard, Iowa was a long way from any U.S. coast.