JEFFERSON CITY— Missouri transportation officials have approved rail projects costing about $200 million that they hope to pay for with federal stimulus money.
The Highways and Transportation Commission on Wednesday added the 11 rail projects to its five-year construction plan, but the projects will be done only if the federal government agrees to fund them.
Missouri is competing against other states for $8 billion of stimulus funds available for high-speed rail development, and preliminary applications show states are seeking nearly 12 times the amount of money available.
Missouri's projects focus on the Union Pacific tracks used by the twice daily Amtrak passenger trains between St. Louis and Kansas City. The primary goal is to reduce delays.
"If we are successful in this application, we will virtually eliminate every significant bottleneck between St. Louis and Kansas City," said Brian Weiler, the multimodal operations director for the Missouri Department of Transportation. "Then I see our focus changing to increasing our speeds and cutting our times on that corridor."
The route has a double track most of the way between St. Louis and Jefferson City. But a single-track bridge over the Osage River forces trains to take turns. Missouri is proposing to spend $33.8 million this year to build a second bridge.
West of the capital, there is a single track that Amtrak must share with 50 to 60 freight trains a day. Amtrak trains often must pull onto sidings to allow freight trains to pass because some sidings aren't long enough to hold a mile-long freight train.
Missouri's plan would extend sidings at a couple of spots and spend $56.6 million to build a second track between Lee's Summit and Pleasant Hill to handle trains at speeds of up to 90 mph.
Because of the congestion on Missouri's tracks, most Amtrak trains now travel at about half that speed, Weiler said.
Missouri's proposal includes $50 million to buy two new sets of locomotives and passenger cars as part of a multistate request with Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa and Illinois, Weiler said.
Other projects on Missouri's list include:
- $15 million to build an overpass near Strasburg in rural western Missouri.
- $11.5 million for a new passing track in Kingsville.
- $9.7 million to build a third mainline track in Jefferson City.
- $8.5 million to extend the passing track near Knob Noster.
- $5.2 million for a rail crossover at Hermann.
- $4.4 million for a rail crossover near the St. Louis suburb of Kirkwood.
- $3.6 million to improve 13 railroad track crossings and close two others along various roads.
- $3 million to install displays at eight stations providing general information about the trains' status.