Federal grants awarded to improve freight rail and multimodal traffic flows

A photograph of some railroad track.

Expanding local freight rail networks and facilitating multimodal access were among the goals of several projects that have been awarded competitive federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).

The DOT awarded $1 billion overall to 77 projects in 44 states under the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) transportation discretionary grants program.  

“This administration is making significant investments in infrastructure, and this $1 billion in BUILD grants will repair, rebuild and revitalize transportation systems across America,” said Transportation Secretary Elaine L. Chao.

Six projects sought to improve the project area’s freight rail network through traffic flow improvements. 

DOT also granted awards to a number of projects that plan to build infrastructure around highway-grade crossings or relocate or eliminate grade crossings. Project locations include Monticello, Arkansas; Castle Rock, Colorado; Polk County, Iowa; Hattiesburg, Mississippi; and Erie, Pennsylvania.

The Class I railroads privately invest in their networks, but localities and states can be eligible for federal funding for freight rail-related projects if their projects help to improve overall traffic flow. Many projects also have improving freight rail traffic flows as a component of the project.

These are the projects that addressed freight rail movements:

  1. North Texas Multimodal Operations, Velocity, Efficiency, and Safety (NT MOVES) Program (Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas); $25 million awarded to the North Central Texas Council of Governments

This project sought to expand commuter and freight rail capacity between Fort Worth and Dallas via the following: constructing 1.2 miles of double track from the Medical Market Center to Stemmons Freeway; building 2.4 miles of second track from Handley Ederville Road to Precinct Line Road; and implementing Clear Path technology to exchange information on train movement in the terminal complex. 

The project aims to increase reliability and decrease the travel time of commuter and freight train movements as a result of replacing or rehabilitating bridges and double-tracking portions of Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s Trinity Railway Express corridor. 

  1. St. Louis Bi-State Regional Ports Improvement Project (St. Louis, Illinois and Missouri); $20.84 million to America’s Central Port District

The project consists of multiple parts. The project at America’s Central Port in Granite City, Illinois, aims to build up the region’s multimodal infrastructure. This project entails the construction of 2,050 linear feet of new railroad track, a new terminal access roadway, a new belt system and barge loading system replacement. 

The project at the St. Louis Port Authority, Missouri, seeks to build 7,300 linear feet of new railroad track, barge loading equipment modernization, conveyor replacement, loading shed updates and flood mitigation work. 

The project at Southwest Regional Port District, Illinois, aims to conduct loading shed and electrical system updates, hoist system and barge loading upgrades and flood mitigation work. 

These improvements — new grain storage, conveyor equipment and additional track — will make the port district more competitive, according to DOT. The project also seeks to modernize existing assets, which will expand the capacity of the facilities, reduce wait times and provide an attractive alternative for grain shippers. The project will also increase resiliency and environmental sustainability, as it would allow the facilities to remain open in the event of Mississippi River flooding, which has caused extended closure in recent years, DOT said.

  1. Stockton Diamond Grade Separation (Stockton, California); $20 million awarded to the California Department of Transportation

The project will construct grade separations for Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) and BNSF’s (NYSE: BRK) mainlines running through Stockton. The project also seeks to make local roadway improvements along the rail lines, including some rail-roadway grade separations. These improvements will help prevent fatalities, injuries and property damage, and they will enable an uninterrupted flow of rail traffic through the crossing. 

  1. U.S. 79 Bridge Replacement  (Russellville, Kentucky); $13.5 million awarded to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet

This project will replace and widen four existing bridges on U.S. 79 between Guthrie and Russellville, Kentucky, one of which passes over CSX (NASDAQ: CSX). The bridge over the CSX track will have a higher clearance and will meet CSX’s current railroad design policies.

  1. Port of Cates Landing Rail Extension Project (Lake County, Tennessee); $7 million to the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development

This project will construct 5.5 miles of rail to connect the Port of Cates Landing and the adjoining Select Tennessee certified industrial site to the TennKen short-line railroad, DOT said. Doing so will provide a rail alternative for the region and reduce truck vehicle miles traveled. The Northwest Tennessee Regional Port Authority has partnered with TennKen Rail and the Lake County Industrial Park to develop, implement and maintain the project

  1. San Juan Four Corners Freight Rail Project (San Juan, New Mexico); $2 million awarded to San Juan County

The project will complete the planning phase for the realignment of NM 371 corridor rail, according to DOT. The proposed rail line will connect the Farmington, New Mexico, area to the BNSF, Interstate 40 and Thoreau, New Mexico, across San Juan and McKinley counties. 

The project will reduce the area’s freight traffic on the highways and local roads, and it will improve the efficiency of the area’s freight network through the upgraded connection with BNSF. Related to the project, San Juan County and Navajo Nation officials signed a memorandum of understanding to plan and construct a railroad spur and a petrochemical industrial complex in San Juan County.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh.

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