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Railroads, too, seek stimulus funds for congestion relief

FORT WORTH, Texas — Two of the nation's largest railroads are seeking $70 million in federal stimulus money to lay tracks at the notoriously congested Tower 55 rail intersection near downtown Fort Worth.

Construction of a third north-south rail line at Tower 55 would reduce diesel emissions, speed traffic flow on area roads and improve safety at railroad crossings.

Officials from Fort Worth-based BNSF and Union Pacific, based in Omaha, Neb., say that although the new track would remain private property, the project enjoys wide support from public officials.

The request for funding will likely be made within weeks by the Texas Department of Transportation or another public agency on behalf of the railroads. The project will compete with other nationally strategic rail, port and road projects for $1.5 billion in discretionary funding to be disbursed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

"We won’t have trains sitting and people sitting and waiting for trains to get out of the way," said Nate Asplund, BNSF director of public private partnerships. "It will be a reduction in at-grade crossing delays and a definite improvement in air quality."

If the bid for federal funding is successful, it would be a rare sign of progress on Tower 55, which has been under study by regional planners for more than five years.

The intersection, which features two rail lines running east-west and two running north-south, is one of the most congested in the U.S. About 112 trains pass through the intersection each day, and trains are often queued up on side tracks across Tarrant County, their diesel engines idling, while waiting their turn to go through.

The long-term plan is to dig a trench and move one set of Tower 55 railroad tracks below the other — but no funding sources have been identified for that $700 million-plus project.

Read more at Star-Telegram.com

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