WASHINGTON, D.C. (WHNT) — Early Thursday morning, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced nearly $5 million in funds to help improve the rail infrastructure in Alabama.
The announcement comes as part of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which has nearly tripled funding for the critical rail infrastructure program to $1 billion per year over the next five years. The goal, says the administration, is to get goods from ships to shelves more quickly and lower costs for American families.
This funding is part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program. Nationally, the CRISI program awarded 46 projects in 32 states and the District of Columbia more than $368 million.
FRA’s award to Alabama will provide “critical economic benefits,” the administration says, by improving the Alabama Tennessee River Railway’s (ATN) ability to transport goods faster and safer, helping to cut down on shipping costs while creating and sustaining jobs in the area.
“Americans deserve a world-class rail system that allows people and goods to get where they need to go more quickly and affordably, while reducing traffic and pollution on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. “We’re proud to award these grants to improve passenger rail for riders and strengthen the freight rail that underpins our supply chains and makes our economy work.”
ATN was awarded up to $5 million for the Safety, Transportation, Education, and Mobility Project, which will make a series of improvements on the ATN between Birmingham and Guntersville.
Upgrades to siding and wye tracks are included in the project, in order to handle increased traffic, eliminating switching across SSR-144, rehabilitating the SR-144 grade crossing surface, reactivating the rockslide warning signals to allow for 25 mph train speeds between Birmingham and Ragland, and the elimination of bridge defects on nine bridge structures to ensure continued 286,000-pound capacity.
All of these improvements are expected to increase capacity, speed and efficiency, and remove safety risks posed by rail switching operations across SR-144. According to a press release, the project qualifies for the statutorily required set-aside for rural investment. The Class III ATN will provide a 50% match.
“This round of CRISI grants – one of the largest ever – is a major step forward for FRA and the Biden Administration’s efforts to revitalize and rebuild the country’s infrastructure,” said FRA Administrator Amit Bose. “These awards will allow FRA to support rail projects that have a direct impact on numerous communities nationwide while laying the groundwork for future growth.”
The Biden Administration says these investments will play a crucial role in modernizing the rail infrastructure and strengthening supply chains to reduce congestion – and get people and goods where they need to go faster and cheaper.