Jeramey Jannene

State Expands Investment in Freight Railroads

By - Sep 25th, 2009 02:25 pm
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WisDOT and Governor Doyle announced a substantial rail investment yesterday, it wasn’t the oft-discussed KRM commuter rail line, but instead a serious upgrade to the aging railroad infrastructure that Wisconsin’s railroads and businesses depend on.

The biennial budget that was passed this summer substantially increased the investment the state will make in repairing and restoring rail lines.

None of the projects are going to immediately impact the Milwaukee area in any noticeable way (besides creating jobs for a lot of Milwaukee-based Wisconsin & Southern Railroad, WSOR, employees).  The long-term impact of upgrading the state’s railroad infrastructure will be significant.  Upgrading track sections that are nearly 100 years old (an era of much smaller rail cars) will allow for greater speed and reliability, which translates into cheaper shipping costs, fewer trucks on the highway, less congestion, and less wasted fuel.  As Milwaukee is well served by numerous rail lines, this will only serve to make the city of Milwaukee an even more attractive place to do business.

The last budget included funding of $22 million, so edging above $30 million is a sizable 36% increase in funding.  Something that WSOR asked for, and now plans to immediately move on.

WSOR went as far as to produce a short documentary exhibiting their problems with the conditions of rails in Wisconsin.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQhlLsBwNgE[/youtube]

The press release and more information can be found on the WisDOT website.  Information on the exact grants and loans to be provided has been made available.

Governor Jim Doyle today announced ten state awards totaling $30,596,082 that will be used to construct freight rail-related facilities, and preserve and upgrade rail infrastructure as part of overall efforts to support job growth and Wisconsin’s agricultural economy.

“Freight rail plays a critical role in Wisconsin’s transportation system, moving some 150 million tons of commodities every year,” Governor Doyle said.  “These grants and loans will help retain jobs and spur economic growth in many rural communities while strengthening our agricultural economy.”

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) is administering three loan awards totaling $3,382,944 through the Freight Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program (FRIIP).  A revolving loan program, FRIIP awards are provided to private industries, railroads, and local governments to improve rail infrastructure, highway/grade crossings, and to construct new rail-served facilities – with the overall goal to boost economic development and jobs.  As FRIIP loans are repaid, the dollars are used to help fund new projects.  Most of the work on the recently approved FRIIP loan projects will begin this fall and continue in the spring of 2010.

Seven grant awards totaling $27,213,138 are being distributed through the state’s Freight Railroad Preservation Program (FRPP).  FRPP grants cover up to 80 percent of the cost of projects designed to preserve rail service or rehabilitate fixed facilities on publicly owned rail lines.  Award recipients provide the 20 percent local share.

Since the FRIIP program was approved by the Legislature in 1993, WisDOT has provided 93 loans through the program totaling over $100 million.  Another $78 million in FRPP grants have been awarded to local governments and railroads since 1993.  Twelve freight railroads operate in Wisconsin on a system of over 3,600 route miles of track and handle some 2.5 million rail cars each year.

The eloquent sign reads “Racist Milwaukee Police Dep is pulling over African Americans leaving this store. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

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5 thoughts on “State Expands Investment in Freight Railroads”

  1. Jeff Jordan says:

    Any investment that improves Milwaukee and the State of Wisconsin’s ability to compete in the Global Economy is a good one. This decision , as Jeramay points out is a good one for the environment. Getting trucks off of our already crowded highways is a good thing.

  2. Our company uses the route on a regular basis, it is in need of repair. If it improves the transport links and also creates more jobs then it can only be a benefit.

  3. JCG says:

    Does this mean the rails themselves are public-owned, while the railroad companies just use them (much like roads, i guess)? If so, I did not know that. But then, don’t the rail companies have authority over their own lines, leading to things like trackage rights of way? Guess that confuses me. Educate me, Jeramey!

  4. JCG says:

    And further, if that arrangement is indeed the case, do the rail companies pay the equivalent of tolls to the public (the state) for their trackage rights and to at least partially pay for the cost of their economic lifelines?

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