Sunday, September 22, 2013

Maine, NH Denied Federal Grant for Long Bridge Rail Line

(SOURCE:  Seacoast Online - Deborah McDermott)

Maine and New Hampshire transportation officials learned this week that the states did not receive a $25 million federal grant to build a rail line as part of the Sarah Mildred Long Bridge replacement project.

Joyce Taylor, chief engineer for the Maine Department of Transportation, said Friday the states still intend to go forward with plans for the rail line, which would carry nuclear waste in and out of Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The Long Bridge is the No. 1 red-listed bridge in New Hampshire and is nearing the end of its useful life.

Taylor said, at this point, she doesn't know how the two states will make up the difference or whether those discussions will result in a delay in construction. Work is expected to begin on the $160 million replacement in fall 2014.

"We were very hopeful, but we knew going into it that Maine's had a lot of success with TIGER funding," she said, referring to the federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant for which the states had applied. "This is pretty rare money, so we knew it wasn't for sure."

The federal Department of Transportation on Thursday awarded $474 million in the 2013 round of TIGER grants. Maine received $6 million for a breakwater replacement in Eastport, and New Hampshire received $1.4 million for improvements to 42 miles of the Northeast Rail Corridor between Rochester and Ossipee.

The two states sought a grant for the Long Bridge rail line because federal highway money cannot be used for rails. TIGER funding is one of the few means to fill the funding gap, state transportation officials have said.

According to MDOT spokesman Ted Talbot, Maine and New Hampshire transportation commissioners Dave Bernhardt and Chris Clement have already spoken about the issue, and more meetings are scheduled with top transportation officials as they "work to identify how we can close that gap."

The U.S. Navy has indicated it doesn't intend to budget money for the rail line. To date, no other use is made of the rail.

"We just have to regroup," Taylor said. "Both states need this bridge."

No comments:

Post a Comment