Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Colorado railroad to seek alternative funds

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Although not receiving TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) federal stimulus funding, a project to improve The San Luis and Rio Grande Railway is not dead in its tracks reports the Valley Courier in Alamosa, Colo. Ed Ellis, president of the railway's parent company, Iowa Pacific, said this week he plans to look for alternative funding sources for the project that would expand the rail's capabilities through the Valley.

"We think it's a great program," he said. "We had a lot of support for it Valley wide to move forward."

Ellis and representatives of other shortline railroads will be in Washington, D.C., this week to meet with members of Congress, and Ellis plans to meet with Congressman John Salazar and Senator Michael Bennet's offices to discuss alternative funding for rail improvements.

"It's infrastructure, and that's one of the hot buttons for the Obama Administration, to improve infrastructure," Ellis said. "It's all the right buttons."

Ellis said the TIGER program was highly competitive because only 51 proposals could be funded out of more than 1,400. The local railroad's application alone was for $80 million and was one of 32 statewide totaling $1.1 billion. Applications throughout the nation totaled $59 billion, with only $1.5 billion available. Approximately one project in each state received TIGER funding.

"I am disappointed," Ellis said, "but I cannot really complain too much because there was a lot of competition for it."

He remained optimistic about the rail improvement project. "I think there will be other alternatives. Stay tuned, and we will see what happens."

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