USDOT Awards $645MM in Rural Rail Grants

Written by Jennifer McLawhorn, Managing Editor
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg
U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Biden-Harris Administration has awarded over $645 million from the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program.

In a news release, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced the Biden-Harris Administration has awarded over $645 million from the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program will fund 18 projects that will increase mobility and safety in rural areas. This second year of the grant program “represents a keystone of the Administration’s commitment to repairing and improving rural transportation systems. President Bien’s infrastructure law made more than $44 billion available to help rural communities repair and improve their roads, bridges, airports, ports, and transit systems.” Additionally, the Rural Program is reportedly oversubscribed with more than 174 applicants requesting a total of $7.4 billion for project funding.

The application process includes an evaluation on multiple criteria which includes: “project readiness, cost-effectiveness, and whether the project supported critical goals like enhancing safety, increasing mobility and reliability, improving resiliency and restoring infrastructure to a state of good repair.” The application process included one application for three different grant programs: 1) Rural; 2) the Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA); and 3) the new National Infrastructure Project Assistance Program (Mega).

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said: “Rural communities face some of the toughest transportation challenges, yet are often left out of major federal investments, a pattern that we are changing that under President Biden’s leadership. . . The grants we’re announcing today will make transportation in rural communities better, safer, and more reliable.”

The two rail-related projects receiving funding via the Rural Surface Transportation Grant Program are:

  1. $12 million for the Millen, Ga. Rail Crossing: USDOT reports this project will implement three grade-separated rail crossings in Millen, Georgia to improve both residential and freight mobility in the area. One rail crossing will be north of the railyard on SR 21/Millen Bypass and the other two will be located on SR 67/17/East Winthrope Ave. The Rural fact sheet states the project will significantly improve intermodal freight mobility as trucks on this primary agricultural route are prohibited from using the existing overpass at Barney Avenue, and as train length is increasing from the Port of Savannah. In an underserved area, this project will improve residents’ daily access to employment centers, the local Jenkins County schools, and social services while minimizing delays. Currently, east/west travel at these crossings is impeded by approximately 10 trains per day with an average speed of 10 miles per hour, causing delays on this connection to US 25. The implementation of the grade separations will also reduce the opportunity for trespassing and improve safety at the crossing.
  2. $13.48 million for Restoring Railroad Roots with an Intermodal Facility in Bluefield, West Va.:According to the USDOT, this project will construct an overpass bridge and make road improvements on the approach to an intermodal facility. It will also replace one existing lane, signal-controlled railroad underpass at Old Bramewel Road/County Route 11/”Midway Tunnel” with an overpass that has separate pedestrian and bicycle accommodations. The Midway Tunnel is a 128-year-old, 195-foot-long underpass on Old Bramwell Road that passes under 8 Norfolk Southern railroad tracks and associated railyard. By replacing the underpass with an overpass, it will help facilitate development of an intermodal facility that can accommodate trucks and reconnect the midway community with the rest of Bluefield, which are separated by the railroad.

Below is a fact sheet of the projects selected for the rural grants:

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