Michigan businesses to get boost from $30 million Biden investment in railroad upgrades

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Funding under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act of 2021 will be used to upgrade railroads across the country.

On Thursday, the Biden administration announced a pair of grants totaling up to $30 million that will be used to build and upgrade rail lines in Michigan, benefitting businesses and the general public.

In a statement published by the Federal Railroad Administration, the administration said that up to $21.3 million will go toward the Great Lakes Central Railroad, the largest railroad in Michigan, spanning the state's central and northern regions. The Detroit News reported that the federal funds will be used to lay new rail, rehabilitate or replace bridges and culverts, and install 30,000 railroad ties.

Another $8.4 million in federal funding is going to be allocated to the West Michigan Railroad Co., which operates in southwestern Michigan. The administration said that money will be used for infrastructure improvements along 10 miles of track, including rail replacement and rebuilding and repairs to bridges.

According to the Detroit News, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Wednesday the projects would give "shippers in rural Michigan reliable freight service to get their goods to market." Buttigieg also noted, "It's urgent for us to modernize our railroad infrastructure to get people and goods where they need to get faster, safer and more affordable.”

In an opinion column published on Thursday in the Detroit Free Press, Buttigieg and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, now a senior adviser to President Joe Biden, wrote:

President Biden tasked us with strengthening our supply chains, speeding the movement of people and goods, increasing production, and helping usher in newer, cleaner and cheaper energy—all of which will lower costs for families. And thanks to the president’s historic Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, we have the resources we need to do just that. ... [The] investment [in railroad infrastructure] will mean that Michigan businesses can move more products— from frozen foods, to auto parts, to construction materials — faster and more reliably. It means more jobs and more growth for the auto part manufacturer or the canning company that produces those goods. And it means jobs for businesses in cities across the country that rely on these companies for their products.

Michigan's infrastructure has been in bad condition since before Biden took office. A 2018 report by the American Society for Civil Engineers gave the state's infrastructure a D+ rating, noting, "Much of the state's infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life and continues to threaten the state's lakes, rivers, drinking water, and public health and safety."

The grants for Michigan railroad infrastructure projects are part of an overall $368 million announced by the Biden administration for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program, to be used for 46 projects located in 32 states and Washington, D.C.

The Federal Railroad Administration noted in its announcement that funding for the program had tripled under the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by Biden on Nov. 15, 2021. The program will receive $1 billion each year for the next five years.

The Army Corps of Engineers announced at the beginning of this year that it would receive $479 million under the infrastructure law to fund the rehabilitation of the Soo Locks complex in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, which facilitates travel between Lake Superior and the lower Great Lakes. The funds allocated by the Biden administration will allow larger ships to transport goods across the lakes.

The Biden administration has also enacted legislation lowering the cost of internet service and doubling heating assistance available to Michigan residents.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.