NICHOLASVILLE — A $17.5 million federal grant announced Wednesday will create 100 jobs and rehabilitate short line railroads owned by R.J. Corman Railroad Group in Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia.
The grant was one of two major Kentucky projects announced Wednesday on the first anniversary of the massive federal stimulus program.
The other is a $39.8 million loan and $38.3 million grant for a fiber cable-based broadband network in Morgan, Menifee, Wolfe and Elliott counties in Eastern Kentucky. The four counties are considered "distressed" by the Appalachian Regional Commission and are in an area with mountainous terrain and limited highway and rail infrastructure.
The program will bring broadband access "to enhance economic and educational opportunities for residents and employers," according to an announcement from the U.S, Department of Agriculture.
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The railroad grant, announced by Gov. Steve Beshear, was approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation. Some 1,400 applications seeking more than $57 billion in projects were submitted.
"We're excited about this. This is great news," said Noel Rush, vice president of strategic planning and development for R.J. Corman Railroad Group, based in Nicholasville.
"We're elated that the U.S. Department Transportation has scrutinized the merits of our project and made this grant to us," Rush said.
R.J. Corman Railroad Group will schedule a job fair for prospective employees in early March. Details on that fair will come later, Rush said.
The work will begin as soon as people are hired. "It's probably safe to say that it would start some time in April," Rush said.
Short lines are smaller freight railroads that provide local businesses with a link to the national network of Class I railroads. Those short lines allow businesses in Kentucky to access global markets.
The Kentucky portion of the project involves the rehabilitation of 200 miles of aging track.
The three Kentucky short lines are the Central Kentucky Line, which runs from Winchester through Lexington to Jefferson County; the Bards town Line, which runs from Bardstown north into Bullitt County (the track used by My Old Kentucky Dinner Train is also used for freight); and the Memphis Line, which runs from Bowling Green south into Cumberland City, Tenn.
Those lines serve 81 customers and carry more than 28,500 outbound carloads of aluminum, sand and other goods annually.
Examples of rehabilitation efforts include the replacement of crossties, resurfacing of line, and repair of bridges and underpasses.
The state will provide a $200,000 grant toward the project, and R.J. Corman Railroad Group will contribute an additional $3.04 million. Together, that will meet 20 percent of the total $16.2 million Kentucky project cost.
Beshear said in a news release the project will provide "a more livable and sustainable community by alleviating congestion, lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and lowering our dependence on foreign oil. R.J. Corman Railroad Group is one of Kentucky's most innovative corporate citizens, and I commend the company for its vision."
The $17,551,026 came through a federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant, which is part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, commonly known as the stimulus act. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray H. LaHood announced the grant on the one-year anniversary of President Barack Obama's signing of the bill.