The Ohio Rail Development Commission (Rail Commission) on Nov. 9 approved $264,000 in grant funding to the Napoleon Defiance & Western Railway (NDW) and authorized staff to administer a recently awarded Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Consolidated Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant.
According to the Rail Commission, a total of $10,792,000 was awarded in CRISI funds, with $4,361,000 in private railroad funds contributing to the total $15,417,000 project.
NDW, a Class III railroad owned by the Patriot Rail Company, partnered with the Rail Commission on a December 2022 submission to the FRA. The project is a continuation of previous partnerships between the railroad and the Rail Commission and is the second federal grant received for this rail line.
NDW owns and operates 43 miles of track from Woodburn, Ind., to outside Napoleon, Ohio. According to the Rail Commission, the railroad has “suffered from years of deferred maintenance and ranks among the highest derailment rates in the country, leading it to hold the unfortunate distinction as the ‘Worst Railroad in America.’” With ownership changes at NDW in 2019 and 2022, the preservation and rehabilitation of the NDW became a high priority. The awarded project will complement the work undertaken by previous projects in 2020 and 2021, focusing on the portion of the line between Defiance and Napoleon.
“We are privileged to work with the Ohio Rail Development Commission and deeply appreciate the Rail Commission’s direct grant to the Patriot Rail Napoleon Defiance & Western Railway,” said Patriot Rail CEO John E. Fenton. “The Rail Commission’s funding commitment to this project, in combination with NDW’s private contribution, enabled the award of this very significant Federal Railroad Administration CRISI grant that will continue our transformation of the NDW and increase safety, reliability and efficiency for the rail shippers we serve in the State of Ohio.”
“After decades of deferred maintenance of this rail line, the Rail Commission is happy to partner with the railroad to continue these critical investments in the line,” said Ohio Rail Development Commission Executive Director Matthew Dietrich. “This project ensures the rail line continues to be an asset for the region’s economic development efforts for many years to come. The enhanced safety improvements make this project a huge win for all involved.”
Earlier this year, Railway Age named NDW its 2023 Short Line Railroad of the Year. The Class III railroad is experiencing a turnaround, following the recent replacement of 29,000 ties and 13 miles of rail over the 29-mile Woodburn-to-Defiance alignment.