The Buffalo & Pittsburgh Railroad will use an $11.3 Federal Railroad Administration grant as part of a $25 million project to upgrade 220 miles of track in Pennsylvania.
The project for that railroad, which operates between Buffalo, New York, and the village of Eidenau in Jackson, Butler County, was among 70 projects worth $1.4 billion announced by the FRA on Monday. The short-line railroad is a key connection to several major lines and feeds traffic to Pittsburgh through the Allegheny Valley Railroad.
The grants also include $8.8 million for Amtrak to develop a pilot apprenticeship program to train foremen and inspectors in Morrisville, a Philadelphia suburb.
The BPR grant is $11.3 million, but it requires a 55% match that will be paid by the railroad and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. Charles Hunter, assistant vice president for government affairs for parent company Genesee & Wyoming RR Services Inc., said the railroad will contribute $9.75 million and PennDOT $4 million.
Hunter said the project calls for a series of improvements, including upgrading 40 at-grade crossings; replacing 50,000 linear feet of existing rail with continuous welded rail; installing nearly 31,000 crossties, 100 switch ties, four equipment defect detectors and five wayside rail lubricators; distributing about 8,000 tons of new ballast; and 48 miles of resurfacing. Other work will include replacing 168,000 tons of ballast and removing mud and other debris from three tunnels and cutting brush and trees along 82 miles of track.
The work, which will be concentrated in Jefferson, Armstrong, Butler and Lawrence counties, will take about a year of preparation and two years of construction, Hunter said.
The railroad is one of the largest in Pennsylvania, with more than 625 miles of track, and passes through Bradford, Johnstown, DuBois, Punxsutawney and Butler with rail yards in Butler, Punxsutawney and Buffalo.
PennDOT spokeswoman Alexis Campbell said the project is important because of the connections Buffalo & Pittsburgh provides with other railroads.
“This is a state-of-good-repair project, which will improve safety, freight reliability and supply chain efficiency,” she said. “The rail line interchanges with CN, CSX and Allegheny Valley Railroad and supports the transportation of multiple commodities such as aggregates, automotive products, chemicals, coal, food and feed products, metals, minerals and lumber.”
The grants are part of the FRA’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program. The program has existed for many years, but the Biden administration has substantially increased its funding under its national infrastructure improvement program.
In an embargoed news briefing Friday, federal officials said the grants are a first step in the administration’s efforts to reinvest in the rail industry.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said statistics that show there have been more than 1,000 derailments a year for several decades demonstrate that the nation’s railways “need improvement.” The program will pay for a series of upgrades that benefit freight and passenger railroads, including track and grade crossings, and green locomotives that will make the system safer, improve the supply chain and reduce pollution.
“This is a very good project for people living near railroads,” Buttigieg said, noting that two-thirds of the money will be allocated in rural areas. “This is what investment in America looks like.”
FRA Administrator Amit Bose said the number of applications for grants shows the need for improvements. Overall, the agency received 234 requests for grants worth more than $6 billion.
“The demand for rail will only grow over the next five years,” Bose said. “The bottom line is there is a lot of demand out there.”