New freight rail, public transit projects slated for Oklahoma.

New freight rail and public transit projects are coming to Oklahoma, thanks to two Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery V (TIGER) grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Oklahoma Department of Transportation was recently awarded a more than $1.8 million TIGER grant for freight rail upgrades to a previously unusable section of railroad in Beckham County and the City of Oklahoma City received a $13.6 million grant for the creation of a public transit hub

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, who visited Oklahoma in late August to view the state’s transportation progress, announced the TIGER grant recipients recently.

A highly-competitive selection process was used to award the TIGER grants to only a handful of projects out of hundreds of applicants. A total of $474 million in discretionary grant funding was awarded to 52 projects in 37 states.

The TIGER grant awarded to ODOT will allow improvements to be made to 15 miles of state-owned track between Erick and Sayre, a section that has been out of service for a decade.

Reopening of this railway will connect Erick to the freight rail corridor that serves major cities in western Oklahoma and was improved in 2012, when ODOT received a $6.75 million TIGER grant for rail upgrades between Clinton and Sayre.

Construction associated with the recent TIGER grant is expected to begin in early 2014.

“Thanks to this TIGER grant, more communities will be connected by freight rail, which can grow existing businesses and bring in new businesses,” ODOT Executive Director Mike Patterson said.

“Railroad upgrades in western Oklahoma will allow more products from the area’s thriving energy and agriculture industries to be transported safely and efficiently by train.”

The City of Oklahoma City was also selected to receive a $13.6 million TIGER grant to help create an intermodal transit hub at the Santa Fe Depot.

The station is located in downtown Oklahoma City and houses Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, the state’s passenger rail service between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth, Texas.

Construction of the transit hub will combine the federal grant with funds from the city, ODOT and the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments.

“I applaud Oklahoma City for the initiative it is taking and we are proud to partner with them to improve public transit in the metropolitan area,” Patterson said. “Creation of this transit hub will actually benefit many areas of the state by linking the Heartland Flyer with other transportation options.”

Since inception of the TIGER program, Oklahoma has been successful in receiving grants benefiting several modes of transportation. Since 2009, nearly $78 million in TIGER grants have come to the state. In 2010, ODOT was awarded a nearly $50 million federal grant for construction of the new multi-modal bridge on I-244 over the Arkansas River in downtown Tulsa.

The first of its kind constructed in the state, the double-decker bridge supports automobile, pedestrian and future passenger rail traffic. The department also assisted the Port of Catoosa in obtaining a $6.4 million TIGER grant to improve one of the nation’s largest and most inland ports.