More than $15 million in the latest round of Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants will benefit rail projects in Mississippi and Maine.
The Maine Department of Transportation has been awarded a $7.89-million FASTLANE grant for the Maine Railroad Bridge Capacity project in northeastern Maine, according to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME).
“This major rail link is used daily by manufacturers and customers across our state and these improvements will significantly increase capacity and efficiency throughout the corridor,” said Sen. Collins.
The project will repair and upgrade 22 rail bridges on the Madawaska Subdivision of the Maine Northern Railway. One bridge requires complete replacement while three need superstructure replacements and 14 require minor repairs. Following project completion, the 151-mile section will be capable of carrying 286,000 pounds of rail car weight.
“This FASTLANE grant is a critical piece of funding for the upgrades and improvements of railroad bridges in northern Maine,” said MaineDOT Commissioner David Bernhardt. “Through this important public/private partnership, operators of railroads will be able to safely increase the loaded weights for railcars over these bridges that will have long lasting, positive impacts on industries in the region.”
In Mississippi, the North Central Mississippi Regional Railroad Authority (NCMRRA) was awarded a $7.54-million FASTLANE grant for improvements and repairs on a line between Grenada and Canton.
Sens. Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) say the FASTLANE grant represents 50 percent of the needed funding for the project, which will also be supported with private-sector funding and the Mississippi Department of Transportation Railroad Revitalization Fund Loan Program.
The project will rehabilitate approximately 90 miles of track of between Grenada and Canton and also entails repairing the Coldwater River Bridge near Coldwater, which was damaged by fire in July, as well as repair work on several other bridges. The grant will also support reactivation of 18 active warning devices and new tie installation sufficient to raise the entire 180-mile Grenada Railroad line to Federal Railroad Administration Class II standards.
“This grant will help preserve the hard-fought effort to restore service in north-central Mississippi. Improving the Grenada Railway is an important part of an overall transportation system that supports economic growth,” Sen. Cochran said.
“Restoring this rail link through the heart of our state will result in a brighter economic future for the region,” Sen. Wicker said. “The project will combine public and private funds to improve freight movement, enhance safety for the general public, and protect and create jobs all along the corridor.”
The NCMRRA was created in 2011 by representatives from the counties of Tate, Panola, Yalobusha, Grenada, Montgomery, Carroll and Holmes counties with the objective of protecting long-term rail service in the region. In 2015, Iowa Pacific was awarded a 15-year lease to operate on the line.