The California Transportation Commission (CTC) will distribute $6.45 million to seven short line railroad infrastructure projects.
The projects are funded through the 2020 Short-Line Railroad Improvement Program (SLRIP), which was established under California’s Short-Line Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2019. SLRIP provides funds to infrastructure projects intended to “improve freight mobility [and] volume thresholds, and support modern rail freight traffic and the communities and industries they serve throughout California.” (More details below.)
Once complete, they are slated to reduce more than 15,000 daily truck trips, 111,000 daily truck miles, and 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions over a 15-year period, according to CTC.
Following is a list of the projects, whose combined value is more than $13 million:
• Arizona & California Railroad Desert Rail Replacement Project, $1,412,780: The San Bernardino County project will upgrade 3.8 miles of rail and replace 800 tons of ballast on Genesee & Wyoming’s Arizona & California Railroad Cadiz Subdivision. Caltrans applied for the funding. (Total project cost: $2,825,560.)
• Sonoma-Marin Area Rail Transit Rail Freight Improvements Project, $1,455,850: The Sonoma County project includes repairs to the Black Point Bridge, which spans the Petaluma River; rehabilitation of two existing freight rail spurs in Windsor and southwest Santa Rosa; construction of a new freight spur in Windsor; and the installation of Positive Train Control. Caltrans applied for the funding. (Total project cost: $2,911,700; the grant funds will be matched with local private investment, according to SMART.)
• Santa Maria Valley Railroad Track Rehabilitation Project, $399,560: Along a two-mile stretch of track between the cities of Guadalupe and Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County, the project will replace approximately 1.6 miles of rail as well as ties and ballast. Caltrans applied for the funding. (Total project cost: $799,120.)
• Pit River Curves Track Rehabilitation in Modoc County, $432,962: Near the city of Alturas, the project will replace 1.25 miles of nearly 100-year old rail in the Pit River Canyon. “While this project has independent utility,” the CTC noted, “it can also be utilized as leverage for the release of available federal funds, allowing Goose Lake Railway, which extends into Oregon, to complete a full track rehabilitation.” Modoc County Transportation Commission applied for the funding. The implementing agency is Lake Rail/Goose Lake Rail. (Total project cost: $865,925.)
• Sacramento Valley Railroad Capacity Expansion Project at McClellan Business Park, $663,842: In Sacramento County, the project will construct two tracks (1,311 feet in length) to provide additional working/storage capacity for transload business. They will complement the current 7 track-miles operated by Patriot Rail & Port’s Sacramento Valley Railroad. The Sacramento Area Council of Governments applied for the funding. (Total project cost: $1,394,069.)
• Pajaro River Bridge Rehabilitation Project, $295,000: The Santa Cruz County project will rehabilitate the Pajaro River Bridge, allowing continued service for freight rail customers, an expected increase in freight, and potential future public transportation service, according to CTC. The Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission applied for the funding. (Total project cost: $670,000.)
• Stockton Intermodal Transload and Alternative Fuel Project, $1,799,991: The project will replace and/or repair more than four miles of track on the Stockton Terminal & Eastern Railroad (STE) in Stockton, Calif.
According to OmniTRAX, The Broe Group affiliate that manages STE, “the grant was proposed by San Joaquin Council of Governments and will modernize infrastructure on the STE to handle the influx of alternative diesel fuels that comply with California low carbon fuel standards. The grant will fund a safety modernization resurfacing and rail tie replacement program that removes deteriorating 100-year-old rail, rehabilitates degraded switches for essential connection points, and replaces six grade crossing surfaces in the track work limits.” Work is expected to be completed this year.
The total project cost is $3,599,981. The grant covers about half that; OmniTRAX will provide the remainder.
“The SLRIP grant will greatly enhance our operational efficiency and rail operations in Stockton and preserve and improve transload capacity to meet increased in demand,” OmniTRAX President Sergio Sabatini said. “The project will also significantly reduce costs, emissions and truck travel in the region. We appreciate the partnership with the San Joaquin Council of Governments, which is helping us safely connect our communities and maintain a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly supply chain.”
CTC established the 2020 SLRIP as a two-year, $7.2 million program (fiscal years 2020-21 and 2021-22). Since the seven projects only account for $6.45 million, the remaining $750,015 will go into the Trade Corridor Enhancement Account, according to CTC.
Due to requirements of the 2019 Short-Line Rail Infrastructure Improvement Act, project nominators were restricted to Caltrans and the Regional Transportation Planning Agencies. The SLRIP funds could not be allocated to a private entity. Additionally, projects must begin construction by Dec. 31, 2022.
In December the CTC announced it would distribute $392.4 million to 10 freight and passenger rail projects as part of its recent approval of $2 billion for 56 state projects that will reduce traffic, improve goods movement and increase transit service, among other measures.