WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss.) and Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) today reported the approval of more than $18.2 million in federal grant funding for transportation projects in Mississippi, including $14.0 million for the Mississippi Export Rail Line in Jackson County.

The rail line project, as well as a $4.2 million grant to strengthen the I-20 Vicksburg Mississippi River Bridge, will be funded through FY2013 congressional appropriations approved for the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Infrastructure Investment or “TIGER” program. The Mississippi Senators supported applications from Mississippi for this funding.

“These transportation grants are geared toward improving transportation efficiency, public safety and our economy,” said Cochran, who serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee. “The rail line in Jackson County, in particular, will not only improve public safety but create new economic opportunities for industries from the coast to the Midwest and Canada to ship products through the Port of Pascagoula.”

“Increasing the productivity and safety of these transportation lifelines will help lead Mississippi’s economic future,” Wicker said. “Enhancements on the Mississippi Export Rail Line and Vicksburg Mississippi River Bridge are critical to Mississippi’s economy. These two grants will make a significant impact on improving transportation in Mississippi.”

The $14.0 million grant for the Port of Pascagoula Intermodal Improvement project was awarded to the Jackson County Port Authority to support relocation of the Mississippi Export Rail Line between Moss Point and Pascagoula. The project would entail using an existing railroad right-of-way to create a more direct rail route between the two communities. By redirecting the line through less-travelled areas, the project would eliminate 16 at-grade rail-highway crossings now associated with the railroad. The improved track configuration would allow the line to handle 60 to 75-car unit trains and facilitate shipments to and from the upper Midwest and Canada. The Jackson County Port Authority application has broad support from the local communities and the State of Mississippi.

The $4.2 million grant to the Mississippi Department of Transportation to rehabilitate the I-20 Vicksburg Mississippi River Bridge is intended to improve the resiliency of the bridge, which has experienced stress due to movement of the pier foundations both along and perpendicular to the bridge. According to the U.S. Transportation Department, the work will improve the ability of the bridge truss and deck to withstand minor lateral movements.

• U.S. Department of Transportation TIGER Program: http://www.dot.gov/tiger