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$435,456 for rail project

Published December 15. 2009 05:00PM

The Carbon County Railroad Commission will receive more than $400,000 in state funding for a nearly $1 million rail project.

Gov. Edward G. Rendell announced Friday that 39 railroad companies and users will receive a total of $24.5 million through the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's Rail Freight Capital Budget/Transportation Assistance and Rail Freight Assistance Programs. Of that amount, Carbon County will receive $435,456 for repairs to the Hometown High Bridge in Schuylkill County. Carbon owns that stretch of railroad land and Reading and Northern Railroad utilizes the line for its business.

"Upgrading and expanding our freight rail lines helps maintain service and also opens the door to greater business opportunities," Rendell said in a press release. "These investments will help meet growing demand for freight rail service and also help ease highway congestion by reducing the number of trucks on our roadways."

Carbon County Commissioner William O'Gurek, who also chairs the county railroad commission, said the money the county is receiving is a start in the right direction.

"Obviously any type of grant money is welcome," O'Gurek said. "It will be put to good use to make the railroad better."

The grant is still nearly $600,000 less than what the county was initially requesting for the project.

Last month, the county railroad commission voted to approve an electronic access agreement with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation that gives authorization to Reading and Northern Railroad to access the dotGrants system for the 2010 Rail Freight Assistance Program on behalf of the commission.

The county announced that it was again applying for a $1 million RFAP grant to complete renovations on the high bridge.

The project calls for major repairs along the 185-foot high bridge.

"This is a vital part of the rail operations," O'Gurek said at the November meeting.

This is the third time Carbon County had attempted to secure an RFAP grant to cover the high bridge project.

The first two times, the county was not approved to receive funding for the project.

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