Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker approved four freight rail improvement projects totaling approximately $11 million in grants and loans. The goal of Wisconsin's freight railroad assistance program is to increase the use of rail transportation and support economic development and job creation.
The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is distributing more than $9 million in grants through the Freight Railroad Preservation Program (FRPP). FRPP grants cover up to 80 percent of projects designed to preserve freight rail service or rehabilitate track on publicly-owned rail lines.
In addition, WisDOT is awarding more than $1 million in loans through the state’s Freight Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program (FRIIP). FRIIP is a revolving loan program used to improve rail infrastructure and construct new rail-served facilities.
The city of Baraboo will receive an $800,000 FRPP grant to cover a $1 million railroad spur line reconstruction project in Madalon Industrial Park. Constructed in 1982, the line has deteriorated despite ongoing maintenance efforts. The project will improve reliability to the three industries currently being served and potentially attract new rail users. The spur line is served by Wisconsin and Southern Railroad (WSOR), which operates on the adjoining line through a lease agreement with Union Pacific.
WSOR received three awards including a $2,293,380 FRPP grant to reactivate a 10-mile railroad corridor between McCoy Road in Fitchburg and West Netherwood Road in Oregon. The Dane County rail line, which has not operated since the 1990s, is currently owned by the city of Fitchburg and the village of Oregon. Access to rail service is essential for Lycon Incorporated’s new ready-mix concrete facility being built in Oregon. A $286,673 FRIIP loan has also been awarded to WSOR for this project.
A $1,744,324 FRPP grant was awarded to the shortline construct a new 8,000-foot rail siding from Milton Junction to Anderson in Rock County. This project is located on a rail line owned by the state of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin River Rail Transit Commission. It will improve operations at both the rail yards in Madison and Janesville, along with safety issues near the city of Milton. A $218,040 FRIIP loan will assist in covering the project costs.
And finally, a $5,000,000 FRPP grant was awarded to WSOR for the first phase of a more than $11 million track rehabilitation project. Improvements involve rehabilitation of the state of Wisconsin and Wisconsin River Rail Commission-owned track through Janesville, including track alignment and other rail upgrades near the former General Motors plant. Another section of rail will also be upgraded between Walworth and Zenda in Walworth County. The rehabilitated track will allow WSOR to improve the efficiency in transporting rail cars along its connection to the Chicago market. A FRIIP loan of $625,000 has also been awarded for this project.