$34M to help alleviate Texas rail bottleneck

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood last week joined with Texas officials and railroad industry leaders to announce nearly $50 million in rail investments to bolster both passenger and freight service through the state, and jumpstart planning for high-speed rail between Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth.

A $34 million TIGER II grant will fund major rail improvements on the Tower 55 project in Fort Worth and reduce traffic delays by 100,000 hours per year. The Tower 55 project will alleviate congestion at one of the busiest railroad intersections in the United States, where 10 freight and passenger rail routes converge and carry more than 100 trains per day. The high volume of trains currently results in lengthy delays for area commuters and passengers, which will be greatly reduced thanks to these rail upgrades.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced a $15 million high-speed rail grant for Texas that will jumpstart engineering and environmental work on a high-speed rail corridor linking two of the largest metro areas in the United States, Dallas-Fort Worth to Houston. The State of Texas is one of 32 states across the country currently laying the foundation for future high-speed rail service.

“These projects are part of President Obama’s bold vision for investing in freight and passenger rail projects that will create jobs and grow our economy over the long-term by moving people and goods more quickly and efficiently than ever before,” says U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Through our robust public-private partnership with state, local and industry partners on the Tower 55 project, we’re eliminating a longstanding bottleneck for freight rail, creating capacity to handle future rail demand as our population grows, and strengthening the foundation for economic development across the region.”

In addition to the $34 million TIGER II grant, the project will be funded with matching contributions – including $1 million from the Texas Department of Transportation, $1 million from the City of Ft. Worth and $65 million from BNSF and Union Pacific – to help install new signaling, bridge upgrades, a third track line and improved street and pedestrian crossings. Once complete, rail capacity will increase by more than 30 percent, making it more efficient for rail freight shippers and improve commuter rail reliability and performance.

“This project could not have happened without the unprecedented collaboration of a number of entities that supported this essential project,” says Texas Transportation Commissioner William Meadows. “The Tower 55 Multimodal Improvement Project exemplifies the strong commitment of the Texas Department of Transportation to comprehensive transportation planning, and an acknowledgment that a transportation system includes many different and diverse components.”

The Tower 55 project will create about 900 jobs and provide greater safety with reduced delays for motorists and pedestrians at area highway-rail crossings and bridges. With decreased train delays and blocked crossings, the project will achieve a projected 1.9 million ton reduction in carbon emissions from idling locomotives and automobiles. Construction is expected to begin in early 2012.

“Tower 55 is a crossroads of the North American continent,” says Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. “This project will allow the Tower to go from a legacy chokepoint to the model of a freight and passenger checkpoint, a facility featuring efficiency, safety and convenience.”