The U.S. Department of Transportation has selected 26 projects—nine rail/intermodal-related—to share $1.5 billion in INFRA (Infrastructure for Rebuilding America) grants.
The INFRA competitive grant program evaluated highway, multimodal freight and rail projects based on safety, how they supported freight movement and job creation, their efforts to address climate change and resiliency, impacts on equity and quality of life, how they applied innovative technology, their cost effectiveness, and demonstrated project readiness, USDOT reported on Sept. 15. Projects were also prioritized on their ability to deliver national or regional economic benefits. USDOT said it awarded a “significant amount of funding to rural areas, historically disadvantaged communities, and areas of persistent poverty to address historic underinvestment in these communities.” Approximately 43% of grants are going toward rural projects, which exceeds the statutory requirement to award rural projects 25% of INFRA funding, USDOT added.
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—also known as the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act—expanded INFRA eligibility to include, for example, wildlife crossing projects, marine highway corridor projects, and surface transportation projects located within or functionally connected to an international border crossing. It also “increased funding for the INFRA program by more than 50% to help meet high demand for federal funding to support projects across the country,” according to USDOT. Over the next five years, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide approximately $8 billion for the program, including the $1.5 billion made available in this round of funding.
The nine rail/intermodal projects sharing $514.2 million in INFRA grants are:
- Downtown Mile Safety and Connectivity Improvement Project (Rural), Flagstaff, Ariz.: The $32.46 million award will be used to deliver pedestrian safety improvements as well as freight and passenger rail infrastructure enhancements along an approximately one-mile segment of the BNSF Transcontinental Corridor. Work includes a pedestrian underpass at Rio de Flag; an underpass at Milton Road to allow for the future widening of the road from four lanes to six lanes and increased vertical clearances; a pedestrian underpass at Florence-Walnut; and the installation of pedestrian gates at the Beaver Street and San Francisco Street at-grade highway/rail grade crossings.
- South Port Container Yard and Electrification Project Phase 3 (Rural), Manatee County Port Authority, d.b.a. SeaPort Manatee, Fla.: The $11.95 million award will go toward construction of an approximately 16.5-acre container yard, an access road, and approximately three foundations and utilities for future radiation portal monitors. It will also be used for the installation of electrical systems for two previously acquired mobile harbor cranes. The INFRA grant is being augmented by state and local funds, including equal sums of $2.18 million each from a Florida Department of Transportation grant and from SeaPort Manatee revenue, according to SeaPort Manatee, which expects to project work in 2023 and wrap up in 2025. This latest phase of expansion is to augment 18 acres of container yard already completed adjacent to SeaPort Manatee’s berths 12 and 14, plus an additional 6.62 acres under construction and slated for mid-2023 completion.
- CREATE WA-1 Segment: Ogden Junction project (Urban), Illinois Department of Transportation: The $70 million award will help rehabilitate railroad track; upgrade signaling; and replace, remove or rehabilitate 18 viaduct structures on an approximately 1.9-mile-long segment of the Western Avenue Rail corridor from Kedzie to 16th street. Approximately 10,000 feet of new track will be constructed and approximately 31,000 feet of track will be shifted. New power turnouts and crossovers will enable an automated path to be controlled by the dispatcher and new friction management equipment will be installed. “The project will improve an elevated, multi-track, high-density freight rail corridor running through central Chicago that is more than 100 years old and in need of modernization,” USDOT said.
- Rockport Bridge Rehabilitation Freight Rail Project (Rural), Green River Area Development District, Ohio and Muhlenberg Counties, Ky.: The $17.33 million award will go toward replacing the Rockport Railroad Bridge deck, filling in portions of the existing approach with rockfill and culvert pipes, and upgrading the electrical and mechanical components that allow the bridge to be raised to accommodate river traffic. The project is being delivered through a public-private partnership with Paducah & Louisville Railway. According to USDOT, the 100-year-old bridge “is a vital link for the transportation of commodities such as chemicals, grain, coal, lumber, steel and petroleum on the 280-mile railway, which would be diverted to truck if the bridge were to be closed.”
- Hunts Point Terminal Produce Market Intermodal Facility (Urban), New York, N.Y.: The $110 million award will go toward redeveloping the facility with expanded refrigerated warehouse space and electric vehicle charging stations for trucks and cars. The new one-million-square-foot Produce Market will offer approximately 824,600 square feet of refrigerated warehouse space with solar panels or a green roof. “The project will boost the economy by improving one of the largest food distribution centers in the country by widening and separating vehicular, truck, rail and pedestrian circulation and clearly establishing and expanding truck queuing and parking areas within the facility,” USDOT reported.
- I-85 FUTURES project (Rural), North Carolina Department of Transportation: The $100 million award will be used to widen a segment of I-85 from six lanes to eight lanes and add auxiliary lanes for interchanges. Also, approximately five interchanges, six overpasses and four railroad bridges will be replaced to accommodate the widening. Additionally, the project will add about nine miles of sidewalks, bike lanes and multi-use paths crossing over I-85; install fiber optic cable to support intelligent transportation system (ITS) applications and rural broadband access; and install electric vehicle chargers.
- Western Hills Viaduct Replacement project (Urban), Cincinnati, Ohio: The $127.12 million award will be used to build a new structure south of the existing viaduct, which will connect to a redesigned interchange with I-75. “This project replaces an 85-year-old viaduct that is in such a poor state of repair that it requires supplemental supports and frequent maintenance disruptions,” USDOT reported. “The project will allow for reliable and efficient freight movement by road and rail, as the increased spacing of supports will allow for rail realignment and provide a new access point to the CSX intermodal facility. Innovative technology will be used on the project, including PV light fixtures, carbon-absorbing surface treatments, and ecofriendly materials.”
- Tioga Marine Terminal Access and Capacity Enhancements Project (Urban), Philadelphia Regional Port Authority, Pa.: The $20.34 million award will go toward construction of an approximately 100,000-square-foot warehouse with rail access, employee parking and loading docks at the Tioga Marine Terminal. The project will also relocate and construct a new modernized gate complex and relocate an existing maintenance facility.
- Salmon Bay Bridge Rehabilitation Project (Urban), Washington State Department of Transportation: The $25 million award will help rehabilitate the movable span by replacing the counterweight, the counterweight truss, six of the eight bearings, and the counterweight links with steel members with a high resistance to fatigue. “This project will extend the life of the bridge’s moveable span by 50 years, while addressing design flaws that have caused stress on the existing infrastructure,” USDOT said. “The project will maintain a critical multimodal north-south connection, avoiding hundreds of miles of detour on this vital freight rail corridor that serves passenger and commuter rail lines [including Sound Transit Sounder and, when they resume service Sept. 26, Amtrak Cascades trains]. The project has strong public-private partnership and will also utilize an innovative approach to bridge replacement, which minimizes disruptions during construction and allows spans to be replaced in 24 hours.” BNSF, which owns the bridge, will provide an additional $70 million in funding needed to complete the work.
“Today [Sept. 15] we are announcing transformative investments in our nation’s roads, bridges, ports and rail to improve the way Americans get around and help lower the costs of shipping goods,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said. “Using funding from President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we are able to support more excellent community-led projects this year than ever.”
USDOT in March issued a combined Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) to allow submission of one application for three grant programs: INFRA and two new programs, the Rural Surface Transportation Grant program (RURAL), and the National Infrastructure Project Assistance program (Mega). The recipients of RURAL and Mega grants will be announced in the coming months, according to USDOT.