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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Missouri commission approves rail projects

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Provide more reliable rail service. Eventually produce faster travel times. That's exactly what the Missouri Department of Transportation seeks to do in making applications for a portion of $8 billion in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding set aside for high-speed rail development.


The Missouri Highways and Transportation Commission gave its stamp of approval to add 11 rail projects totaling $201.3 million to the current five-year Statewide Transportation Improvement Program. These projects will be included in MoDOT's final application to the Federal Railroad Administration for the competitive High-Speed/Intercity Passenger Rail grants created by the ARRA. Application deadlines are Aug. 24 for four projects and Oct. 2 for the remaining seven.


"We have heard loud and clear from Missourians that passenger rail service has to be reliable," said Brian Weiler, MoDOT's Multimodal Operations Director. "Together MoDOT, Union Pacific and Amtrak are making good, steady progress in improving the St. Louis to Kansas City rail corridor. These grants could provide the down payment Missouri needs to further enhance both passenger and freight movement, but we're going to have some strong competition."


According to Weiler, 40 states have made pre-applications for projects totaling $103 billion, nearly 12 times the amount available.


The type of high-speed rail project Missouri plans to develop is one that would make the train service on the existing Union Pacific line faster over time. These improvements will enhance the capacity of the current system and will be done incrementally as funding becomes available and planning and design work in cooperation with Union Pacific is completed.


These new projects will also complement several recent and ongoing improvements like construction of a double track at the Gasconade River Bridge funded by Union Pacific last fall and the new passing siding under construction near California, Mo. to be completed in November with two-thirds state and one-third federal funds.


The 11 rail improvement projects for which MoDOT is seeking ARRA funding include:

1. Knob Noster Passing Siding Extension ($8,500,000): Project would extend existing siding to 9,000 feet and break up a 27-mile segment with no usable siding.

2. Webster Universal Crossover ($4,400,000): Project would increase ability to sort freight and passenger trains into and out of the St. Louis area.

3. Second Rail Bridge over Osage River ($33,800,000): Project would eliminate train delay caused by single-track bottleneck over bridge and reduce maintenance flexibility by adding crossovers.

4. Rail Crossing Safety Improvements ($3,600,000): Project would upgrade 13 crossings and close two, mostly west of Sedalia.

5. Double Track Lee's Summit to Pleasant Hill ($56,600,000): Project would complete double-track and signal upgrades to increase Amtrak train speed from 79 to 90 mph at this segment.

6. Kingsville Passing Siding ($11,500,000): Project would break up 25-mile segment with no passing siding.

7. Hermann Universal Crossover ($5,200,000): Project would close an 18.2-mile gap on double main line track with no crossovers.

8. Third Mainline Track in Jefferson City Yard ($9,700,000): Project would increase fluidity through the Jefferson City yard by maintaining bi-directional freight operations with Amtrak operations.

9. Real-Time Passenger Information Displays ($3,000,000): Project would install displays at eight intermediate stations to provide general train status information.

10. Strasburg Grade Separation ($15,000,000): Project would construct an overpass and remove a current at-grade crossing at Route E.

11. New Locomotive and Coach Equipment ($50,000,000): Seek to purchase two new sets of locomotives and passenger equipment for use on the St. Louis to Kansas City route. (Application is part of the state of Wisconsin's application)