Port and freight rail projects for short lines in Maryland, California, Connecticut and Florida were among eight grant winners for $19.4 million from the Department of Transportation’s rail relocation and improvements account.
Although the amounts of most awards were relatively small, they will untangle bottlenecks, allow for much faster freight traffic in some areas and set the stage to eliminate dozens of roadway-track crossings that slow both rail and road traffic.
Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said this grant program was another example of demand far outstripping available funds. The DOT received 51 project applications seeking more than $202 million, evidence of “the strong desire to improve infrastructure and foster economic development” with such investments, he said.
Some of the grants were also examples of how the DOT is aiming some of its project funds toward port-related facilities. LaHood vowed to assist ports in making upgrades that include road and rail projects for freight moving to and from the docks.
The largest grant, for $5.3 million, goes to upgrade track on the Providence and Worcester Railroad’s Willimantic Branch at Sprague, Conn., so freight trains cane increase speed from 10 mph to 40 mph.
Maryland's Canton Railroad, serving industrial shippers at the Port of Baltimore, will get $1.7 million from the DOT to expand a rail yard and improve railcar switching.
The Port of San Francisco was awarded nearly $3 million for track and signal upgrades on a mile-long rail spur, allowing freight trains to move faster and heavier.
Florida Central Railroad got $2.2 million to upgrade a track segment of track section in Lake and Orange counties, boosting speeds to 40 mph from 10 mph and restoring freight rail service in some areas.
The DOT said other grant winners:
- Arkansas Midland Railroad, $2.7 million
- Wadena, Minn.’s K-Line rail spur, $1.5 million
- Springfield, Mo.’s West Wye track, $1.9 million
- Alaska Railroad, $1.1 million