US DOT grants benefit handful of freight rail projects

A photograph of two railcars in a rail yard.

New highway grade crossings affecting BNSF and funding for improvements at the ports of Tulsa, Tampa and Houston are among the projects that have been awarded funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program.

DOT is awarding $906 million to 20 projects in 20 states involving major highways, bridges, ports and railroads. A full list of the projects that DOT is supporting is available here.

Rail- or container-related awards include:

  • $40 million for the Anoka County, Minnesota, Ramsey Gateway (US Highway 10/169) project, which involves the construction of two new grade-separated highway overpasses of U.S. Highway 10/169 and a parallel freight and commuter rail line. The overpasses will reduce commuter times because it will ease the congestion and intersection queueing at a location that also sees 57 to 81 freight trains and 14 passenger trains passing through daily. Anoka County is part of the greater Twin Cities region, and BNSF (NYSE: BRK) runs trains in the area.
  • $6.75 million for the Wisconsin DOT to complete the last phase of the Merrimac Bridge rehabilitation and span replacement. Once the project is completed, the rehabilitation will allow for 286,000 pounds of railcars at 25 mph on the Wisconsin & Southern Railroad’s freight rail bridge over Lake Wisconsin. The Wisconsin & Southern, a Class II railroad operated by Watco, has access to Chicago via the Belt Railway of Chicago and harbor facilities on the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien. The commodities it transports includes forest products, fertilizers, grain, plastics, consumer foods, paper, aggregates, chemicals, frac sand, ethanol and liquid petroleum.
  • $6.19 million for the City of Tulsa-Rogers County Port Authority’s Rural Industrial Park rail switching enhancement project. The project will upgrade an industrial park in Inola, Oklahoma, with new structures and rail, including new drop-pull tracks, the installation of power switches, the construction of a northbound wye track and a new clear track loop and safety improvements at three at-grade crossings. The project also involves the construction of a three-mile rail spur connecting the park to the Union Pacific (NYSE: UNP) freight mainline. 

The port authority said the project will result in more than 6.5 miles of new and upgraded railroad track and it will benefit the current tenant, tissue paper manufacturer Sofidel America, as well as future industries in the industrial park. 

“The Tulsa Port’s endeavor to develop its newly acquired 2,000-plus acres of land in Inola, Oklahoma, into a world-class port and industrial location will be greatly enhanced by this INFRA Grant award,” said David Yarbrough, port director.

  • $19.9 million for the Tampa Port Authority’s berth and cargo yard project, which will increase capacity by 150,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) annually at Port Tampa Bay’s Hooker’s Point container facility through the construction of Berth 214, including a 1,300-foot-long berth and a 30-acre container yard. The project also includes the addition of a gantry crane rail extension, dredging along the dock to enable the berthing of post-Panamax vessels, utility and stormwater improvements and a new container gate. CSX (NASDAQ: CSX) serves the port.

The port, which serves the west central Florida market, will allow the simultaneous berthing of up to three deep-draft, post-Panamax vessels. Organizers say the project will also expand cargo-handling capacity and enable a more efficient processing of container flow. 

Separately, FreightWaves reported earlier this week that Port Tampa Bay’s board agreed to defer a monthly loan payment of a refrigerated warehouse tenant.

  • $79.5 million for the Port of Houston Authority’s Barbours Cut restoration and upgrade project, which will restore and strengthen approximately 2,700 linear feet of wharf and upgrade about 84 acres of yard space at the Barbours Cut Container Terminal, the U.S. DOT said. Specifically, the project will rehabilitate the northside container yards and Wharf 3, expand the truck gate to add 15 lanes and renovate the existing 14 lanes with new technology to speed throughput. 

The terminal has been undergoing a modernization program that includes replacing older Panamax cranes with larger post-Panamax ship-to-shore cranes, light and dock improvements and yard reconfiguration. Intermodal rail service is available at the terminal via a 42-acre near-dock rail ramp that has four 2,700 working tracks and spurs connecting terminal warehouses, according to Port Houston.

(Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Joanna Marsh)