The Biden administration has stepped up railway safety improvement efforts across the country after a Norfolk Southern train derailed in East Palestine, Ohio, in early February. File Photo by Aaron Josefczyk/UPI | License Photo
Sept. 25 (UPI) -- The Biden administration on Monday announced $1.4 billion for a range of projects to improve railway safety and repair the industry's tattered infrastructure across the country.
The funding for 70 improvement projects in 35 states is being provided through President Joe Biden's Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and is the largest federal investment in rail safety upgrades in the nation's history, the Transportation Department said in a statement.
The lion's share of the money will flow to rural communities to help fix crumbling rail infrastructure and boost the national supply chain.
Work will include track improvements, bridge restorations, rail crossing upgrades and better methods for carrying hazardous materials.
The effort is part of the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program in which the Transportation Department and Federal Railroad Administration have devised a plan to address a barrage of safety issues that have led to recent rail disasters.
Under the plan, Amtrak will get more than $178.4 million in federal funding to complete work on the Gulf Coast Corridor Improvement Project, which will restore passenger service in parts of Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi that hadn't fully recovered since Hurricane Katrina devastated the region nearly 20 years ago.
The investment will add two new daily round trips between New Orleans and Mobile, Ala., and provide new reliable transport lines to help freight companies like CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern expand their shipping capacity.
The project will also address connectivity issues while seeking to reduce shipping costs and cut emissions, all while boosting the nation's workforce.
"Under President Biden's leadership, we are making historic investments in rail, which means fewer accidents and delays, faster travel times and lower shipping costs for the American people," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. "These projects will make American rail safer, more reliable and more resilient, delivering tangible benefits to dozens of communities where railroads are located and strengthening supply chains for the entire country."
The effort takes places as the National Transportation Safety Board was investigating the toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio, in early February.
Four months after the accident, the NTSB issued preliminary findings showing Norfolk Southern dismissed safety concerns about the weight of the train before 38 cars went off the tracks on Feb. 3.
Meanwhile, railway improvements were set to launch in many pockets of the country.
More than $72.8 million is being spent in Washington state to improve tracks, grade crossings and other equipment on the Palouse River & Coulee City Railroad.
In Tennessee, more than $23.7 million was being used to upgrade roughly 42 bridges along 10 railroads in need of immediate repairs.
Kentucky will get $29.5 million to fix 280 miles of track between Paducah and Louisville, including track upgrades, multiple bridge repairs and locomotive restorations.
Nebraska is getting $15.2 million to modernize the Cornhusker Railroad line, including renovations to multiple grade crossings and peripheral facilities.
Maryland is set to receive more than $11.5 million to begin using zero-exhaust emissions locomotives at the Port of Baltimore.
Ohio will get more than $16.2 million in federal money to fix bridges and tracks along 180 miles of the Kanawha River Railroad.