Federal Government Won’t Help Fund Rail Improvements at Port of Muskogee

City leaders in Muskogee say they have to resort to other ways to fund rail improvements for the Port of Muskogee after the federal government refused to offer a grant for the nearly $12 million project.

The city applied for a so-called TIGER grant or funding through the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery program. But for a third time, the city was denied any federal assistance for the $11.58 million project.

As proposed, the Muskogee City-County Port Authority would have paid $5.79 million as its share of the TIGER grant. The port authorities want to expand the arc of the rail line as it enters the port and create a larger railroad marshaling yard, according to a report in the Muskogee Phoenix.

“This is something we have to do, we can’t just not do this because at some point, we won’t have rail service at the port,” Port Director Scott Robinson told the newspaper. He explained part of the problem is that Union Pacific in some cases was unable to pull cars to the port because of the shortage of four-axle locomotives.

“It hasn’t had a serious impact on us so far, but you can see that is going to happen. It is just a matter of time,” he added.

Muskogee was hoping to land some of the $500 million dollars announced last fall by U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. She recently announced the awarding of 41 grants for projects in 43 states.

One was for $8,527,892 to Fort Smith, Arkansas to repair and rehabilitate three rail bridges that cross Clear Creek and the Arkansas River.

Another totals $9,901,793 to the Oklahoma Department of Transportation for the High Plains Strategic Freight Rail Capacity Improvement Project in Western Oklahoma. The money will be used to begin improvements to a Class III regional freight network to accommodate unit trains of loaded 286,000-pound rail cars and increase operating speeds.

One other regional project included a $16 million grant to Colfax County, New Mexico for the Southwest Chief route Stabilization Project. The funding will replace a 60-year old bolted rail line, associated turnouts and crossings for a net gain of 42 miles of Class 4 rail line in the La Junta subdivision between Hutchinson, Kansas and Las Animas, Colorado.