DOT Digest: FRA Grants to Short Line Railroads and for Rail-Related Research

WASHINGTON — BTS Releases 2006 Border-Crossing Data. The number of trucks entering the United States from Canada and Mexico was 11.4 million in 2006, 0.5 percent higher than in 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), a part of the Research and Innovative Technology Administration.

More than 6.6 million trucks entered the U.S. from Canada and almost 4.8 million entered from Mexico. Border-crossing data posted on the BTS website includes numbers of incoming trucks, trains, buses, containers, personal vehicles, and pedestrians entering the United States through land ports and ferry crossings on the U.S.-Canada and U.S.-Mexico border. Border-Crossing Data from 1995 to 2006 can be found on the BTS website at

Two Short Line Railroads to Upgrade Track with FRA Grant Funding in Vermont and Pennsylvania.

The St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad is receiving a $921,224 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to replace approximately three miles of 50 year old track, at various locations, with modern rail capable of handling heavier rail cars between North Stratford and Norton, Vermont.

This federal funding is part of an ongoing project to upgrade track to provide for safer operations and more reliable service. The railroad is providing $230,306 in matching funds. The Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad is receiving a $3.75 million grant from the FRA to begin improving a portion of a 25-mile track spur from Creekside to Cloe in west central Pennsylvania. The grant funds will be used to install approximately eight miles of new track to support delivery of coal to the Edison Mission Homer City Power Plant. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is providing $937,500 in matching funds.

Port of Olympia to Use FRA Grant to Improve Rail Infrastructure.

The Washington State Department of Transportation (WADOT) is receiving a $1.98 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration for rail infrastructure improvements at the Port of Olympia. Specifically, the federal funds will be used to construct three new sidings to increase rail car storage capacity at the port. In addition, four flatbed rail cars and a more powerful rail car mover will be purchased to help speed the loading and unloading process at the facility. WADOT is providing $142,357 in matching funds.

FRA Issues Several Rail-Related Research Grants. The Federal Railroad Administration is issuing five rail-related research grants involving track and equipment inspection, positive train control technology, and reduced locomotive emissions and fuel consumption.

The University of California at San Diego is receiving a $175,000 grant that will continue ongoing research to develop a rail inspection method that allows for higher inspection speeds and higher defect detection reliability than currently available and ways to predict and identify potential rail buckling while the train is in motion.

Norfolk Southern Railway is receiving a $250,000 grant to demonstrate the effectiveness of Hot/Cold Wheel Detector scanners installed alongside the track to improve safety by identifying when wheel defects might develop due to abnormal braking conditions. The railroad is contributing $260,000 to this project.

The National Research Council of Canada is receiving a $290,000 grant to continue research into a variety of interactions between the wheels of the locomotive and rail cars and the tracks, including wheel/rail profiles, wheel/rail friction management, and wheel/rail inspection equipment and procedures.

The Railroad Research Foundation, a part of the Association of American Railroads, is receiving a $500,000 grant to demonstrate technology based on industry standards that would allow for the interoperability of different Positive Train Control (PTC) systems as a train travels from one railroad network to another. PTC systems can automatically control train movements and speeds, including bringing a train to a stop, if a locomotive engineer fails to take appropriate action when the technology provides warning of potential dangerous situations.

Union Pacific Railroad is receiving a $150,000 grant to study if locomotive emissions and fuel consumption can be reduced through the use of rail car-based rail lubrication systems by lessening the amount of friction between the wheels and the track. Previous studies using locomotive-based rail lubrication systems have not proven successful.

The railroad is contributing $244,280 toward this project.