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Vital INDOT Fund Put Railroads on the Right Track

July 2023

Thanks to INDOT’s Industrial Rail Service Fund (IRSF), railroad tracks near Columbus that were forged in the 1890s are being replaced to improve safety.

The IRSF provides grants to Indiana’s smaller railroads — designated by the Surface Transportation Board as Class II and III companies —to renew infrastructure or invest in economic development projects. Railroads submit applications for that fiscal year’s IRSF program and may request up to a maximum of $250,000 in funding.

Replacing lighter, weaker rail (85-90 pounds per yard) with heavier rail (115-126 pounds) is a common use of IRSF funding. That’s what is occurring in Bartholomew County to replace 1890s-era tracks. The Louisville & Indiana (L&I) Railroad short-line is using 2023 IRSF funds to continue a multiyear project of completely rebuilding its 3-mile Columbus Industrial Track, which serves major local employers. The location is on the southeast side of Columbus, running roughly parallel to and south of State Road 46.

“That the old rail lasted 130 years is incredible, but L&I is putting down heavy 132- and 136-pound rail that should easily last another century,” said INDOT Senior Rail Planner Eric Powell. “The advantage, along with dependable service to existing customers, is that L&I foresees a lot of potential industrial development along the spur, contributing to jobs and area growth.”

Increasing a railroad’s carload capacity by adding sidings or new main tracks, replacing or strengthening bridges, and helping industrial and economic projects that increase jobs, business, competition, and marketability are other uses of IRSF funds.

Examples of the latter include two short-line railroads that are using 2023 IRSF funds to create rail-to-truck transloads in areas of the state where none exist. Transloads provide all area businesses with access to the North American rail network. These two projects are located on the Madison Railroad near State Roads 56 and 7 in Madison in Jefferson County, and on the Indiana Northeastern Railroad in Hudson in Steuben County — five minutes from I-69.

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