(The Center Square) – Iowa will spend $330,935 in federal funding to split the cost with Iowa Southern Railway Company to rehabilitate railroad ties in Appanoose County.
The Iowa Transportation Commission on Tuesday approved funding for the $661,869 project. The commission received four other project applications, which weren’t recommended for funding.
The federal funding is available through National Highway Freight Program, or NHFP. In 2015, Congress decided to expand the eligibility of multimodal freight projects by establishing the program. The 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law allowed states to increase, from 10% to 30%, the amount of NHFP funding they use on freight intermodal or freight rail projects. The Iowa Transportation Commission decided to award up to 10% of the state’s FHWA allotment through the Linking Iowa’s Freight Transportation System Program. In this round of funding, Iowa made $1.7 million available for LIFTS projects.
The LIFTS program focuses on funding multimodal freight transportation system projects in Iowa that aren’t typically eligible for highway funding programs, the department said.
Iowa DOT Modal Transportation Bureau Director Tammy Nicholson told The Center Square in an email Wednesday that both the LIFTS program and the Railroad Revolving Loan and Grant Program help railroads as an incentive to make improvements to their system while remaining competitive.
“A Class II or III railroad may have to make hard choices about what improvements that they can do for investment in their infrastructure,” Nicholson said. “Programs like these can help facilitate more improvements which can drive economic development and benefit the residents of Iowa.”
Progressive Rail’s Iowa Southern Railway is based out of Centerville, which is in Appanoose County. The railway runs through Moulton, Udell and Moravia before reaching Albia. Progressive Rail, which is based in Lakeville, Minn., also owns Iowa Traction Railway, which runs from Mason City to Clear Lake.
Iowa Southern Railway Company began leasing the rail line from Appanoose County Community Railroad in 2016, and increased business in the past several years has led to more wear and tear on the track.
“In order to continue the level of service and continue to grow the customer base it is imperative that ties are replaced in several areas that are at a higher risk of derailments that in turn cause service disruptions and create a safety issue,” the Iowa Department of Transportation said in its recommendation document for the commission.
The project involves replacing and anchoring up to 5,000 new cross ties, 10,000 new rail anchors and 20,000 new track spikes at about five locations between mileposts 9 and 19, or the 10 miles between Centerville and Moravia. Nicholson said that the railroad provided pictures and documents to support that the ties in the area need to be replaced.
The Scoular Company, Ten D/Merchants Distribution Service, Lawson Marine Services and Wausau Supply Company applied for funding for projects in Pottawattamie, Polk, Jackson and Adair counties, respectively. Together, they asked for more than $8.5 million, for projects that totaled more than $17 million in investments.
Lawson Marine Services asked for funding for a place on the Mississippi River for towboats to tie up during emergencies and weather events. The other project applications were for the rail network and facilities rail serves, Nicholson said.
Nicholson said each project was discussed with its respective project sponsor and was declined because of anticipated challenges in completing them in compliance with FHWA funding restrictions.
Nicholson said the variety of applications and the amount of funded requested for freight related investments supports the need for funding of multi-modal freight projects as part of Iowa’s transportation network.
The department continues to evaluate the LIFTS program, she said.