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Western Kentucky, Tennessee railroad companies receiving more than $36 million to improve railways

Brent Moore

Hundreds of miles of railways in Kentucky and Tennessee will see improvements due to a Federal Railroad Administration grant program.

The Paducah and Louisville Railway (P&L) and the TennKen Railroad are receiving a combined more than $36 million from the FRA through its Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant, which recently distributed $1.4 billion to rail companies across the country.

These funds will go towards improving and repairing stretches of railroads in both states. Officials with P&L, whose railroad stretches for 280 miles between Paducah and Louisville, said the funds totaling $29.5 million will significantly help improve the safety of their operations.

“Paducah & Louisville Railway is thrilled to see this significant federal investment awarded,” P&L CEO Tom Greene said in a press release. “Thanks to this funding, P&L is strongly positioned to overhaul and upgrade our rail infrastructure, laying the groundwork for future economic development throughout Kentucky.”

The grant will help fund two major P&L projects. The company’s Foster Economic Sustainability Throughout Kentucky Project – which will cost nearly $63 million – aims to strengthen supply chains and increase passenger rail services. P&L also aims to modernize their Rockport Bridge, which crosses the Green River in central Kentucky. The bridge, which was built more than 100 years ago, takes on more than 110,000 freight cars annually.

The West Tennessee Railroad Company’s TennKen Railroad – which provides freight service from Dyersburg, Tennessee, to Hickman, Kentucky – will put a total of $11 million dollars in matching funds towards railway improvements. More than $7 million of those funds will come from the grant. The matching funds will come from TennKen, the CRISI grant program, the Tennessee Department of Transportation, and the Hickman River City Development Corporation. It will go towards rehabilitating 43 miles of railway.

J.J. Hohorst is the president of the TennKen Railroad, the West Tennessee Railroad and the Central Tennessee Railroad. He said much of the railway is over 100 years old and needs repairs. Crews have to slow down on these stretches of rails to prevent derailment. He said making repairs could help crews achieve more round trips in a shorter amount of time.

“Traveling the 50 miles of TennKen to service the community at the end of the line is an all day journey for our crew,” Hohorst said. “In some areas where we are running two mph we may be able to run 15 to 20 mph.”

Hohorst said the railroad has benefited the communities of Hickman and Tiptonville for decades. He said the railroad will still need improvements to continue fostering economic development in the region – like the Sinova Global Silicon Metal plant, which relies on the railway to transport material to its site near the Port of Cates in Tennessee.

“Our goal is that we’re able to attract business to areas like Hickman, Kentucky and Tiptonville, Tennessee,” Hohorst said. “It will make this line revenue adequate and can survive without support from our state partners and federal partners.”

Mason Galemore is a Murray State student studying journalism. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Since then has explored different publication avenues such as broadcasting. He hopes to travel as a journalist documenting conflict zones and different cultures. He remembers watching the Arab Spring in 2011 via the news when he was a kid, which dawned in a new age of journalism grounded in social media. His favorite hobbies are hiking, photography, reading, writing and playing with his Australian Shepard, Izzy. He is originally from Charleston, Missouri.
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