By Evamarie Socha
The Daily Item
LEWISBURG — The Lewisburg & Buffalo Creek Railroad has won an $87,880 grant to rehabilitate its Buffalo Creek bridge and St. George Street overpass in the borough, the business learned Friday.
It’s one of 24 freight-rail projects across Pennsylvania to share in nearly $18.6 million of state investment to improve access, upgrade infrastructure and make overdue repairs, according to an announcement from Gov. Tom Corbett’s office.
The Lewisburg & Buffalo Creek Railroad owns a nine-mile section of track between West Milton and Winfield, which is used mainly for freight coming in and out of the Cargill facility in Winfield, said Will Sanders, the company’s secretary and treasurer.
The Lewisburg & Buffalo Creek line is operated by the Union County Industrial Railroad under the North Shore Railroad Co.
Both bridges need to be re-decked, Sanders said, which means replacing ties. Span ties are different than typical ties in that they take more work, he said.
“This will be an involved project in that we will remove the rail, take out the old timbers, put new timbers down and put back the rail,” he said. The project itself should take just two weeks once started, but work likely will not happen until next summer.
Under state rules, the railroad company must bid out the work, and prevailing wage guidelines will apply, Sanders said. That likely will happen in March.
“We’ve been waiting well over a year for this,” he said. “We feel fantastic about it.” The railroad company applied for the grant in the summer of 2011, but state budget issues held it up for about a year, he said.
Of the grants, $13.2 million will be distributed through the Capital Budget/Transportation Assistance Program, and $5.3 million will come from the state Rail Freight Assistance Program. The grants leverage $6.8 million in local investments.
Sanders said this program is important to shortline railroads in Pennsylvania. “We may be the only state, if not one of the few, that do something like this,” he said. “For smaller business and industry and agricultural areas like ours, this is a very economical means of transport.”
Corbett said in a statement that investing in these rail projects helps to “ensure a solid infrastructure is in place to support the jobs relying on these services.”
Authorized by the General Assembly, the state Department of Transportation’s Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways administers the grants.