Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rail Line Relocation Grants

Today the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published a notice in the Federal Register (76 FR 58334-58341) outlining the “the application requirements and procedures for obtaining funding for eligible rail line relocation and improvement projects” (76 FR 58334). Only States and political subdivisions of States, and the District of Columbia are eligible for grants under this program.

Eligible Projects

The notice makes clear that the construction projects that are eligible for funding include those “carried out for the purpose of mitigating the adverse effects of rail traffic on safety [emphasis added], motor vehicle traffic flow, community quality of life, or economic development” (76 FR 58335). Projects that relocate rail lines are also eligible for funding without meeting the requirement for mitigating the adverse effects of rail traffic.

TIH Rerouting

I have long maintained that, in many cases, the only way to ensure that railroads will be able to economically route TIH chemical shipments around urban areas is to change the historic location of rail yards where TIH switching activities are often accomplished from those urban centers to less populated areas. Rerouting of TIH shipments out of urban areas is clearly a safety improvement activity.

There is nothing in the grant funding notice that specifically states that TIH rerouting activities will receive any special consideration in determining which projects are funded under this program. It would seem logical (I know, no one has ever accused the Federal government of operating on a logical basis), however, to assume that an otherwise eligible project that also resulted in TIH rerouting around an urban area would receive favorable consideration.

Application Deadline

Applications need to be submitted through Grants.gov by October 19th, 2011. The FRA notes that first time applicants via Grants.gov need to register with that site before they can submit an application and that the registration process can take several weeks to complete. Thus, beginning the registration process early is recommended.

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