Rural Freight Corridors Among $273.9 Million in Grant Funding

Buttigieg speaks at a past event. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

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The U.S. Department of Transportation has awarded $273.9 million to 12 projects that are designed to improve safety and freight movement on rural roadways in several states.

The agency as part of an initiative funded under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will invest $2 billion through 2026 for rural projects to update infrastructure, improve highway safety and increase access to agricultural, commercial, energy and freight facilities, DOT said. The winning rural surface transportation program grants were announced Dec. 21 by Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“Infrastructure investments haven’t always reached rural America, leaving far too many roads, bridges and other parts of the transportation system across our country in disrepair,” Buttigieg said, stressing that President Joe Biden’s administration is “delivering the investments that rural communities have gone without for far too long, modernizing transportation, creating economic opportunity and making life better for millions of people.”

A total of $10 billion in funding requests for rural projects were submitted to DOT, much higher than the nearly $300 million made available in 2022 funding. The 12 winning projects came from Alaska, California, Louisiana, Minnesota, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia. Included were two in tribal areas and one in a Native Alaskan village.

The largest grant, at $959 million, was awarded to Niagara County in New York to help cover an estimated $1.2 billion in upgrades to bring the Hartland Road Bridge over Golden Hill Creek to modern safety and design standards. The 70-year-old bridge has received no major rehabilitation work in more than three decades. After completion, the revamped bridge will support movement of agricultural freight.

In Snyder County, Pa., a $69 million grant will support construction of 6.1 miles of a four-lane limited access highway to connect U.S. Routes 11 and 15. In an effort to reduce freight delays, the new stretch will separate trucks from other through and local traffic. The $416 million project will include creation of an interchange and connector to Pennsylvania Route 61.

Improvements to truck traffic is a goal of a plan in Virginia to widen Interstate 64. The Virginia Department of Transportation was awarded $25 million for the project, which has future eligible grant costs of $300 million.

Under the plan, a 10-mile section will receive a third lane in each direction, along with wider shoulder, rumble strips and wider, flatter clear zones on both sides of the roadway. The extra lanes are expected to enhance safety by improving spacing between heavy vehicles traveling the corridor, where 70% of crashes are linked to vehicle roadway departures.

In neighboring West Virginia, transportation officials will receive $25 million toward a $587 million project in Wyoming County to construct a 15-mile segment in the Coalfields Expressway. The new limited access, multilane expressway will link I-64 and I-77 (the West Virginia Turnpike) with U.S. Route 23 in Slate, Va.

This project is aimed at improving safety along the winding stretch, marked by mountainous terrain and blind curves, by adding shoulders and median strips. Other enhancements include extension of the radius of roadway curves and also creation of longer, flatter vertical curves.

When complete, the road improvements are expected to result in more efficient travel and save more than 8,000 travel hours annually.

Widening of another rural truck corridor will take place on the Madera 41 South Expressway in Fresno, Calif., with a $25 million grant award toward a $94 million project. The grant will be spent to transform four miles of the expressway from a two-lane rural highway to a four-lane limited-access expressway. Travel lanes and road shoulders will be updated to meet state freeway standards, and structural design elements will accommodate heavy truck traffic along the corridor. The project also aims to enhance freight movement and improve access for tourists and park employees to nearby Yosemite National Park.

In South Dakota, a $26.2 million grant was awarded for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Route 7 Regional Improvement Project for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. The project will reconstruct and resurface 24 miles of an arterial roadway from U.S. Routes 18 to 83. The work aims to improve safety, freight movements and economic access for the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, among the most economically disadvantaged reservations in the country.

The project will upgrade the existing road surface and incorporate proven safety countermeasures to reduce fatalities and serious injury crashes. This is critical, since tribal communities experience among the highest national traffic death rates, DOT said.

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