On November 9, 2023 the Ohio Rail Development Commission (Rail Commission) granted approval to Commission staff to administer the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement (CRISI) grant throughout the grant lifecycle.
More than $16.2 million in funds will go toward rehabilitating bridges and making track-related improvements along approximately 180 miles of the Kanawha River Railroad through the North Central Appalachia Rail Enhancement and Rail Corridor Preservation Project, according to the .USDOT. The project aims to increase speeds but improve safety, reliability and capacity on the rail line. The rail line helps transport needed goods, including hazardous materials and chemicals, throughout the rural areas of Ohio and West Virginia
The Rail Commission partnered with Kanawha River Railroad (KNWA) and Norfolk Southern (NS) on a December 2022 submission to the Federal Railroad Administration and was recently notified the project was approved. The project will rehabilitate significant sections of the line which runs between Columbus, Ohio, and Cornelia, West Virginia, a distance of approximately 240 miles. The line is owned by NS and operated by KNWA, a subsidiary of Watco. The project includes replacing rail and ties as well as necessary surfacing work. It also includes repairing several bridges along the line. The approximately $32.5 million project will result in the elimination of slow orders and the restoration of Class II track speeds across the project area. These improvements will allow KNWA to maintain safe and reliable service to meet the needs of its existing customers and improve its ability to attract new customers.
Matthew Dietrich, Executive Director of the Rail Commission, said “This project will preserve and improve a rail line in Southeastern Ohio that serves as an important link between industries in West Virginia and Ohio. Anytime we are able to work in tandem with our railroad partners to make improvements that reduce the opportunity for incidents to occur, it’s a benefit to all. We are happy to support that effort.”
The Ohio Rail Development Commission assists Ohio communities, companies, and railroads in creating and retaining jobs by preserving rail service to existing shippers and providing rail service to new customers. The Rail Commission also funds projects to improve railroad-highway grade crossings to increase safety for the traveling public. Rail lines in Ohio are private property. Trespassing is both extremely dangerous and strictly prohibited.