With Marcellus Shale natural gas continuing to grow in demand, it has become increasingly important to update the rail systems used to transport the product. With this in mind, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood on April 18, 2011, announced a $6.8M grant to update the rail systems in four Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale counties, which include: Lycoming, Centre, Blair and Northumberland.
Included in the upgrades will be 200 miles of track and bridge improvements, which is estimated to create more than 300 construction jobs. These projects will “expand the capacity, efficiency and safety of Pennsylvania’s short line rail network.”
According to LaHood, “Projects like this advance President Obama’s vision to create jobs, support U.S. energy sources and reinvigorate the economy…Building an innovative, transportation network with world-class railways will help local businesses compete now and in the future.”
This grant was awarded as a part of President Barack Obama’s infrastructure plan, under the U.S. Department of Transportation’s TIGER II (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) initiative. A recent press release issued by the Federal Railroad Administration stated that the grant will be matched by $4.6 million from the Susquehanna Economic Development Association – Council of Governments Joint Rail Authority.
Through the TIGER II program, $600 million has been granted to 42 capital construction projects and 33 planning projects in 40 states for critical improvements to highways, bridges, transit systems, rail lines, bicycle and pedestrian paths and ports.
With the TIGER II program well underway, contractors should continue to look for ways to become involved in the numerous projects breaking ground throughout the country.
Rail Projects in Maryland
Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley has formally announced that he is submitting two applications to the Federal Railroad Administration for projects that would create more than 2,300 jobs.
O’Malley is applying for funds that recently became available after Florida Governor Rick Scott declined $2.4 billion in federal aid, that had been earmarked for a high-speed rail line between Tampa and Orlando.
- BWI Area Improvements: $299 million for final design and construction of the BWI Area Improvements, including a critical new fourth track in the area of the station, and redevelopment of the station and pedestrian bridge to create access to all four tracks. Maryland is offering $41 million in matching funds for this project to improve rail infrastructure and service on Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor along the MARC Penn line. The total investment for this final stage of the project will directly support an estimated 1,830 jobs.
- Maryland Bridge Replacement: $116 million for Preliminary Engineering and National Environmental Policy Act analysis for the Northeast Maryland Bridge Replacement and Capacity Expansion project. This funding will advance studies to replace and add capacity to three bridges built in 1906 and 1913 across the Bush, Gunpowder and Susquehanna rivers. During this planning and environmental study phase the project will directly support an estimated 547 jobs.
We will continue to monitor developments on the status of Maryland’s applications and keep you updated on any new information available regarding other regional rail developments.