FRA Announces $4 Million Enhance Safety, Efficiency of Rail Infrastructure in Rural States

A Rapid City, Pierre & Eastern Railroad freight train passes through Box Elder, South Dakota, in September 2020. (Photo by Todd DeFeo/The DeFeo Groupe)

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) has awarded over $4 million to three projects in two states to upgrade and safeguard rail infrastructure.

Officials allege that money will play a crucial role in strengthening the supply chain by moving goods faster and at a lower cost.

The Special Transportation Circumstances (STC) program provides directed grant funding to states that lack intercity passenger rail service or those in which the rail transportation system isn’t connected to the rail system in the continental United States.

“This program delivers on our commitment to ensuring diversity in our infrastructure investments by expanding opportunities in rural communities,” FRA Administrator Amit Bose said. “These directed grants will create local jobs, grow local economies, and increase rail safety and efficiency in states where geography and other circumstances create unique needs.”

On December 1, 2021, FRA published a Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) for the STC program. This notice made available funding for eligible projects through the Consolidated Appropriations Acts of 2018, 2019, 2020, and 2021. Federal funds awarded to projects may cover up to 80 percent of the total project cost.

Alaska — ARRC Avalanche Control (up to $1,443,536 to the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)

The proposed project will allow the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to support the Alaska Railroad Corporation (ARRC) in replacing an M101A1 howitzer avalanche control process with a Remote Avalanche Control System (RACS) above ARRC’s Portage Tunnel Door 4 in Portage Valley, Alaska, a remote location approximately 50 miles southeast of Anchorage.

The project will build six fixed RACS installations consisting of five hanging charge towers, one launch charge tower, and one weather monitoring station. These enhancements will allow ARRC to improve the mitigation of avalanche danger within an essential transportation corridor while better protecting railroad employees, railroad passengers, the traveling public, transported goods and materials, and existing transportation infrastructure.

The ARRC will provide a 20 percent match.

South Dakota — Ringneck & Western Efficiency and Growth Project (up to $1,799,009 to the South Dakota Department of Transportation)

The proposed project will improve the economic growth, safety, resiliency, and efficiency of the Ringneck & Western Railroad (RWRR) located just east of Plankinton, South Dakota. The project includes activities, materials, and support services necessary to construct two 1,500-foot transload tracks to transport lumber and aggregate, a 558-foot industrial lead track and a concrete maintenance pit in an existing locomotive maintenance building.

Ancillary project work would include a loadout spur, six turnouts, and a roadway for vehicular and transloading equipment access. The project will improve locomotive maintenance and provide an area to transload goods from rail to truck, improving efficiency for the products being moved and the area’s economy.

The RWRR will provide a 40 percent match.

South Dakota — RCP&E Increasing Rail Resilience Project (up to $800,000 to the South Dakota Department of Transportation)

The proposed project will improve safety along the Rapid City, Pierre, & Eastern Railroad (RCP&E) Pierre-Rapid City (PRC) Subdivision by upgrading and installing eight culvert structures between Fort Pierre and Rapid City, South Dakota. The PRC Subdivision is a 163-mile-long single-track main line between these two cities.

With the completion of the project, the new structures will better withstand future flows from the stormwater basins at their location. This will improve the resilience of the PRC Subdivision and service reliability for all customers along the line.

The RCP&E will provide a 20 percent match.

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