Georgia DOT Completes First Infrastructure Grant Project

Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard
Freight train cars sit in a Norfolk Southern rail yard in Atlanta. (Danny Karnik/Associated Press)

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ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Transportation completed its first Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) Grant project in January, which included upgrades along 138 miles of the Heart of Georgia (HOG) Railroad from Vidalia to Preston.

The Federal Railroad Administration awarded $2 million in competitive CRISI Grant program funding in 2018 to go toward track and rail bridge upgrades, accommodations to support 286,000-pound rail cars and elimination of slow orders on portions of the track. Georgia DOT contributed an additional $2 million in bond funds toward this portion of the project. Construction began in July 2020.

This CRISI Grant-funded project is part of a larger scale project to upgrade the HOG railroad as part of GDOT’s multiyear effort to reach full 286,000 Class II compliance.

“These Georgia DOT-owned short-line railroads provide first- and last-mile service transporting Georgia products from customer facilities to locations across the nation,” Joanna Campbell, Georgia DOT’s Division of Intermodal Transportation assistant director, said in a news release. “CRISI Grants enable us to increase the capacity and the speed of these lines so they can provide more consistent, dependable service for manufacturers and producers in Georgia.”

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The Heart of Georgia Railroad provides east-west connectivity through rural middle Georgia between Preston and Vidalia, where it then travels north to Midville, Ga. For local manufacturing and agricultural businesses, the 138-mile section of short-line railroad is strategically located to carry several agricultural, manufacturing, forestry and intermodal products between central Georgia and the Port of Savannah, offering access to national and global markets. This railroad supports approximately 1,000 jobs in rural Georgia.

“For CRISI projects, the FRA remains a partner throughout the entire project participating in tasks such as reviewing scope of work, project schedules and engineering, as well as monitoring progress and ensuring the project stays on schedule,” Campbell said.

CRISI Grants provide funding for states to complete rail projects designed to modernize our country’s rail infrastructure, strengthen supply chains and get people and goods where they need to be efficiently and more affordably. Georgia first received CRISI Grants in 2018, and this is the first project to be completed. Currently, there are seven CRISI Grant-funded projects underway in Georgia.

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