USA: More than $326m in Consolidated Rail Infrastructure & Safety Improvements and Special Transportation Circumstances grant funding for 45 rail infrastructure projects in 29 states has been announced by the Federal Railroad Administration.

‘These investments in inter-city passenger and freight rail will benefit surrounding communities, make grade crossings safer and improve service reliability’, said Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao on June 12.

Chuck Baker, President of the American Short Line & Regional Railroad Association, said the grants would enable railways to leverage private investment to provide a ‘safer, more fuel- and cost-efficient rail service’. He said the grants, along with ‘balanced regulatory policy across freight modes’ and a Short Line Tax Credit were ‘proven solutions that keep freight rail service to small town and rural America viable, enhance safety, and grow the American economy’.

The larger grants include up to $33m for works to establish twice daily inter-city passenger services from New Orleans to Mobile, Alabama; $30m for the Southern California Regional Rail Authority to undertake track and signalling enhancements and three-track an 8 km section of route to reduce delays to Amtrak, Metrolink and BNSF trains; $17·4m for 90 km of track upgrading on the Sierra Northern Railway in California, and $3·9m to modernise 80 km of CSX’s route between Palatka and DeLand in Florida, which is to be transferred to Amtrak.

There is $28·8m to rehabilitate the Terminal Railroad Association of St Louis’ MacArthur Bridge over the Mississippi, $7·2m for the Indiana Rail Road Co to replace nine wooden bridges with concrete structures, and $8·2m for bridge modernisation on the Nebraska Central Railroad.

A further $17·5m has been allocated to upgrade 120 km of Pan Am Railway main line in Maine, $8·7m for 45 km of track renewals on the Lake State Railway in Michigan, $6·1m for upgrading works on OmniTRAX’s Illinois Railway, $5·6m for 90 km of track renewals on the Lake County Railroad in California and Oregon, and $8·7m for the Lancaster & Chester Railroad to acquire three locomotives and renew 74 km of track in South Carolina.

There is $34·9m for the North Carolina Department of Transportation to expand freight services from the Port of Wilmington to Charlotte, $6·3m to increase rail capacity at Port Freeport in Texas and $6·8m for the Utah – Vineyard Rail Consolidation Project to relocate 3 km of Union Pacific track.

Funding for projects to reduce conflicts between road and rail include $10·2m to grade separate a road crossing of the Norfolk & Portsmouth Beltline Railroad in Chesapeake, $17·6m for Florida Department of Transportation projects in San Marco and Jacksonville, and $19·2m for work to decongest CSX Transportation, Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad and Union Pacific operations around Chicago as part of the CREATE programme.

The Rural Railroad Safety Center led by Kansas State University has been allocated $2·6m.