FILE - GA Railroad, train

A railroad employee leans out from a CSX railroad locomotive as it approaches a street crossing Jan. 21, 2019, in Athens, Georgia.

The federal government is sending Georgia about $5.8 million in grant money to fund four railroad infrastructure projects throughout the state, including lines the state owns.

The money is part of the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) and Special Transportation Circumstances programs.

In total, the FRA is giving more than $326 million in grant funds for 45 projects in 29 states.

“The program provides a comprehensive solution to leverage private, state and local investments to support safety enhancements and general improvements to infrastructure for both intercity passenger and freight railroads,” Natalie Dale, a spokeswoman for the Georgia Department of Transportation, said in an email. “Funding these projects will help with important safety initiatives for railroads, as well as provide funding to improve service reliability on passenger and freight railroads.”

In Georgia, the grants include up to $1.35 million for the Chattooga & Chickamauga Railway to bring the railroad into a so-called “state of good repair.” With the money, the railroad plans to replace 20,000 crossties, install 8,750 tons of ballast and resurface crossings to improve the movement of freight between industries and rail connections in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The grants also include up to $820,000 for the Heart of Georgia Railroad to rehabilitate a portion of its Midville line between mileposts 161 and 162 in Nunez. Once upgraded, the track will support 286,000-pound freight cars at speeds up to 25 mph for the railroad, which transports agricultural, manufacturing, forestry and intermodal products between central Georgia and the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Southwestern Railroad will receive up to $2.6 million to rehabilitate 13 timber rail bridges, convert 5.45 miles of 85-pound rail to 115-pound rail and replace 11,000 crossties. The work will allow the line to handle 286,000-pound rail cars and prevent derailments, closures and emergency repairs.

The 22-mile-long Ogeechee Railroad is slated to receive more than $1 million. The railroad, which serves agribusinesses in Screven and Effingham counties and offers connections to the Port of Savannah via an interchange with Norfolk Southern Railroad, plans to replace sections of 85-pound rail with 115-pound rail, replacing crossties and resurfacing ballast.

“GDOT’s projects focus on improving the safety, efficiency, and reliability of freight movement on our state-owned shortline railroads,” Dale said. “These improvements are vital to ensuring the safe and efficient operation of our state-owned shortlines and help prevent derailments, closures and emergency repairs and costs.”

The Georgia Department of Transportation owns six shortline railroads — the Chattooga & Chickamauga Railway, the Heart of Georgia, the Georgia Southwestern Railroad, the Georgia Northeastern Railroad, CaterParrot Railnet and the Ogeechee Railroad. According to officials, the state owns the lines to maintain Georgia’s rail network and promote economic development opportunities for communities.

The Georgia Department of Transportation leases the railroads to private companies for operations.

The Center Square Contributor