Washington state accepting rail grant applications

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SEATTLE — The Washington State Department of Transportation is now accepting applications for grants and loans for freight-rail projects.

For the 2019-2021 biennium, $7.6 million is available through the Freight Rail Assistance Program Grant, and another $7 million will be available through Freight Rail Investment Bank loans. The application deadline is Oct. 18, 2019. Funds will be available in 2020, subject to approval by the state Legislature.

Freight Rail Assistance Program grants are available to applicants in both the public and private sector, including cities, county rail districts, counties, economic development councils, port districts, and privately or publicly owned railroads.

“This program is directed toward larger projects where it is difficult to gain a contribution and where the rail location or the project is of strategic importance to the local community and the state,” WSDOT says in its program description. “Projects must be shown to maintain or improve the freight rail system in the state and benefit the state's interests.”

The grant program has funded such projects as rail and tie replacements, rail safety, bridge replacement, new sidings, crossing improvements, tunnel repairs, noise abatement, and preservation.

Rail investment-bank loans, on the other hand, are only available to the public agencies. With a per-loan maximum of $250,000, the loans are intended for smaller projects or as part of a financing package for larger projects. Applicants are required to provide a minimum 20% match.

As of the end of 2018, the state had 43 freight-rail improvement projects under way through multiple programs including federal grants and other state funding. Of that total, 29 were projects funded by the state freight-rail grant program, to the tune of $19.7 million.
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