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State Initiatives

​​​​​​​State Initiatives

State Financing Programs for Short Line Railroads

Short line and regional freight railroads are an integral part of the national freight transportation network, providing vital commercial shipping links for American industry, agriculture and commerce. A number of states have recognized this through the establishment of rail financing programs. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the American Short Line and Regional Railroad Association (ASLRRA) determined that it was important to make information on these programs readily available to those who might be interested.

AASHTO and ASLRRA have collaborated on the preparation of profiles of financing programs offered by States to enhance the service and capacity of short line railroads operating in their respective states. Each profile provides information on the type of financing, the program objectives and criteria, project eligibility, eligible applicants, application procedures, and links and contacts for more information.

  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • New Jersey
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma (Railroad Crossing Safety Program)
  • Oklahoma (State Owned Construction and Maintenance Work Plan)
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia (Shortline Railway Preservation and Development Fund​)
  • Virginia (​Rail Enhancement Fund)
  • Wisconsin (Freight Railroad Infrastructure Improvement Program)
  • Wisconsin (Freight Railroad Preservation Program)

  • Featured Initiatives, What's New, Hot Topics, etc.


    In 2007 the Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways electronic grant application process within the Department’s Engineering and Construction Management System (ECMS) was migrated to a new dotGrants system. This system is being utilized by all granting entities within PennDOT (Rail Freight, Aviation, Highway Safety & Traffic Engineering, Public Transit, and Municipal Services). This new dotGrants system will expand on the electronic application by including migration of the entire grant process from paper to electronic. This includes executing grant agreements and a whole suite of project management activities such as approving engineering plans and contracting procedures, submission and processing of reimbursement requests, and project inspection and closeout.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways



    Oregon’s innovative non-highway funding program, ConnectOregon, has dedicated $200 million to projects in rail, aviation, marine and public transit since 2005. Thirty-two rail projects have been awarded more than $106 million from the program, with the ultimate goal of easing congestion on major routes, supporting the state’s economy and preserving Oregon’s quality of life.

    The ConnectOregon program has been so well received, the Oregon Legislature may consider authorizing a ConnectOregon III in 2009. Total rail numbers from the first two programs:

    ConnectOregon I

    • 19 of the 42 projects involve rail – totaling $49.7 million

    ConnectOregon II

    • 13 of the 30 projects involve rail – totaling $56.9 million

    For more information about ConnectOregon and the rail projects that were funded, visit


    Rail Freight Planning and Special Studies


    Completed in July, 2005 Recognizing the need to improve upon implementing freight into the statewide transportation planning process, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) undertook a significant effort to determine the effect of freight activity on the state’s transportation system and the corresponding needs that address those activities. As part of the CDOT freight planning process, the state created a Freight Advisory Council (FAC) comprised of users and providers of freight transportation. Understanding that good freight transportation planning relies on a solid base of relevant data, the FAC recommended that CDOT fulfill a leadership role in the collection and dissemination of such data. CDOT, concurring with the recommendation, undertook the Freight Data Assessment Study as a first step in defining its appropriate roles and responsibilities in developing a framework for a proper data collection program.

    CDOT recently adopted the 2030 Statewide Transportation Plan. This plan is unique from previous statewide transportation plans in that it is corridor-focused rather than project-focused. For each of the 350 identified corridors in the state, a corridor vision was developed.

    Tammy Lang
    Information Management Branch Manager
    Division of Transportation Development
    Colorado Department of Transportation



    July 15, 2007
    The MoDOT Tracker performance measure “Number of Rail Passengers” is directly correlated with the level of passenger train delays. Therefore, the objective of this study was to develop a prioritized list of rail enhancements that addresses current passenger and freight rail performance on the Union Pacific line from St. Louis to Kansas City in order to improve on-time passenger service and reduce freight delays.

    Contact person Rodney Massman, , or at (573) 526-5570 or at 2217 St Marys Blvd. Jefferson City MO 65102.



    Over the past several years the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division (NCDOT Rail Division) has undertaken an active research and development program that utilizes a combination of new and existing technologies to enhance safety on the railroad and at highway-rail crossings.

    This report examines an exploratory project in North Carolina intended to test an innovative, cost-efficient railroad crossing signal system manufactured by EVA Corporation of Omaha, Nebraska. While the EVA signal system had been installed at three other sites across the nation, North Carolina was the first official test site for the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). The system was installed on an incremental basis between August 13 and September 28, 2001. The North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division (NCDOT Rail Division, the North Carolina and Virginia Railroad Company (NCVARR) and EVA Corporation entered into an agreement to field test the experimental system. To read full report, visit: Cost-efficient railroad crossing signal system



    The Bureau is working in coordination with the Bureau of Planning and Research to develop and deploy an interactive GIS rail mapping analytical tool. It will be used to locate improvement projects, upgrades to lines, track state investments, set goals for the Bureau and provide guidance for investment decisions. Users will be able to access and display rail project information by locating and “clicking on” project sites highlighted on the application map. Plans are to engage a contractor to map all existing rail freight projects statewide using precise latitude-longitude coordinates in order to achieve optimum location accuracy.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways



    The Rail Freight Properties Directory Update was completed in 2007 to provide expanding businesses and economic development professionals with updated rail-served site information. The Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways is jointly coordinated this effort with the Bureau of Aviation to also update their listing of business and industrial properties at airports. This Properties Directory of both rail and aviation sites will be available on the web through the PASiteSearch location. The web listing contains more than 700 air related properties and nearly 300 rail related properties.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways




    Through partnerships with Norfolk Southern, CSX Transportation, North Carolina Railroad and local governments, NCDOT’s ongoing program of modernizing the railroad has enhanced safety and capacity by systematically protecting highway-railroad crossings, adding passing sidings, straightening curves and the installation of up-to-date computer controlled train dispatching and traffic control systems.

    The N.C. Department of Transportation recently completed a $7 million train signal and track project between downtown Raleigh and downtown Cary that will enhance freight and passenger rail efficiency and continue to improve service reliability.

    The North Carolina Department of Transportation is currently conducting a Traffic Separation Study (TSS) of 45 highway grade crossing for CSX Transportation and the Carolina Coastal Railway lines in the City of Greenville. The NC DOT is also investigating the feasibility and construction costs associated with improvements to the CSX Transportation & Carolina Costal railroad crossing in the vicinity of the Fourteenth Street/Beatty Street intersection. The TSS and the Rail Improvements Project are a joint effort between the City of Greenville and the North Carolina Department of Transportation, and are aimed at increasing the safety of pedestrians, motorists, rail passengers and train crews.
    Patrick B. Simmons -



    Norfolk Southern and Pennsylvania Operation Lifesaver are sponsoring an Operation Lifesaver Train on May 20, 2008. Motor vehicle-train collisions are extremely prevalent, yet entirely preventable. This “Education and Enforcement Train” helps focus attention on the main contributing factor involving motor vehicle-train crashes: driver behavior. Video monitors linked to a camera on the lead locomotive allowed passengers to have an “engineer’s eye view” and see first hand how often motorists risk their lives by “trying to beat the train”.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways



    PennDOT has recently completed a GPS survey of shortline and regional railroads in Pennsylvania in coordination with the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA). The rail lines that were not field surveyed by CTA were orthographically mapped by PennDOT’s Bureau of Planning and Research’s GIS unit. GIS is using this data to further populate their rail transportation data, which has not been done since 2003. Each railroad surveyed has being provided with a copy of the GIS data for its individual rail lines. PEMA will also have this information for distribution to the Pennsylvania 911 Center’s to ensure that they have more accurate information for emergency responders.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways


    Freight/Rail/Passenger Infrastructure Assistance Programs and Projects


    The Downeaster passenger rail service was created in response to a citizens’ mandate in 1991 regarding the development of transportation alternatives for the State of Maine. Capital investments made to date on the Portland to Boston rail corridor exceed $100 Million.

    Service began in December 2001 with ridership and revenues at, or above, projections. Ridership fell in 2004 and 2005 for a variety of reasons, including cancellation of services due to the Democratic National Convention in Boston and service delays caused by infrastructure failure. Ridership and Revenues have increased substantially in FY 2006 and 2007. While increased ridership can be attributed to high fuel costs, reduced travel time on the Downeaster also was an important factor. Capital investments of $1.5M by the Maine DOT allowed for increased speeds of up to 79 mph in Kennebunk. This, combined with operating adjustments, reduced the Portland to Boston trip time by 15 minutes. The addition of a fifth daily round trip also resulted in increase passengers.

    Tracy Perez
    Director, Planning & Policy
    Office of Passenger and Multimodal Planning
    Bureau of Transportation Systems Planning



    Seventeen (17) grants totaling $25 million were awarded for rail freight rehabilitation and construction projects so far for the 2007 fiscal year. The projects when completed, will further create economic development opportunities in the Commonwealth by assisting a number of railroads with major capital investment and upgrade projects, as well as directly provide efficient and more reliable service to businesses on the rail lines. Examples of these business areas are major manufacturing operations in Mifflin and Montour counties and a number of energy related projects (ethanol and coal) in Clearfield, Westmoreland and Indiana counties.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways



    Forty (40) grants totaling $10.9 million were announced in March 2008 for rail freight rehabilitation and construction projects under the 2008 RFAP. The grant funds will not be available until July 2008; however an earlier announcement of grant recipients enables them to take full advantage of the entire construction season in 2008, as well as that in 2009. For the first time, applicant presentations in lieu of mass site visits were held over four days at the in Harrisburg. This proved to be a very successful undertaking and helped greatly in the project selection process.
    For more information, visit: PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports & Waterways



    Rhode Island’s rail system took a major step forward in 2006 with the completion of the Freight Rail Improvement Project (FRIP), an effort some 15 years in the making that will allow the state to enter into the freight rail business. The 22 miles of track, much of it running on a third line independent of the Northeast Corridor’s two passenger lines, gave Rhode Island what it needs to compete with other ports on the East Coast. The $225 million project included the construction of 12 miles of new track on new locations south of Providence, five miles of upgraded track north of Providence, and five miles that will remain as shared track where clearances were improved. The FRIP not only makes freight rail feasible, it aids RIDOT’s efforts to expand commuter rail service in Rhode Island. The added capacity provided by the third rail will provide the capacity needed to run commuter rail to T.F. Green State Airport in Warwick and into South County, a rapidly growing part of Rhode Island, in 2010.
    For more information, see page 16 of: Rhode Island Department of Transportation's 2006 Annual Report



    South County Commuter Rail: Phase I
    Rhode Island recognizes the potential for commuter rail service to reduce congestion and improve mobility and has planned a 20-mile extension of commuter rail service from Boston south of Providence to Warwick and Wickford Junction through the South County Commuter Rail (SCCR) project. Extension of service to Wickford Junction represents the minimal operating segment of future Providence to Westerly service. SCCR service will operate as an extension of the existing Providence to Boston commuter rail service operated by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA). Commencement of service to Warwick and Wickford is planned for mid-2010.
    For more information, visit:
    Rhode Island Department of Transportation: Intermodal Planning

    South County Commuter Rail: Phase II
    RIDOT anticipates the start-up of a Phase II Study that will provide feasibility, operational and cost analysis for four future passenger rail stations, two existing (Kingston and Westerly) and two proposed (Cranston and East Greenwich). Phase II service will build upon the 20-mile MBTA commuter rail extension from Providence to Wickford Junction, potentially extending service another 24 miles south to Westerly. Also, connections to Connecticut’s Shoreline East service will be explored.
    For more information, visit:
    Rhode Island Department of Transportation: Intermodal Planning



    The rail proposal:
    What: 600-mile freight line from Dallas-Fort Worth to Mexico.
    Who: Cintra-Zachry, comprised of Spanish toll road builder Cintra and Zachry Construction Co. of San Antonio.
    When: Groundbreaking no sooner than late 2009.
    Cost: $5 billion to $6 billion, not including right of way and regulatory costs to be borne by the state.
    Worth knowing: Railway would have no at-grade crossings with roads and would allow steady speeds of 70 mph.

    To find out more, visit links below:
    Dallas-to-Mexico freight line

    Cintra Zachry Letter



    Since 1998, a coalition of public and private partners in the Puget Sound maritime freight gateway has leveraged $568 million of public and private funding for strategic freight mobility infrastructure improvements. Another $300 million is needed to complete the remaining 16 of the 25 most important FAST Corridor projects.
    To continue reading, visit: FAST Partnership Brochure