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Grants benefit RVTD, airport, White City rail line

Three Rogue Valley transportation projects have received state ConnectOregon grants to make improvements and upgrades to services.

Rogue Valley Terminal Railroad Corp. received $117,300, Rogue Valley Transportation District received $400,000 and Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport received $446,666.

ConnectOregon, part of the Oregon Department of Transportation, is a bond initiative started in 2005 to invest in transportation infrastructure in Oregon. The Oregon Legislature created the Multimodal Transportation Fund in 2005 to invest in improvements.

In May, ConnectOregon heard proposals for various projects. Public and private agencies could request up to 70 percent of their project costs with a 30 cash match for the remaining costs. ConnectOregon requested a total of $8.8 million to fund the projects.

Last week, the Oregon Transportation Commission selected 39 projects to fund from a total of 75 proposals from around the state.

The Rogue Valley projects have been given their full request amounts. 

Rogue Valley Terminal Railroad Corp.'s project entails upgrades to three switches, more than 1,000 feet of rail and wood ties at a short line near Western Emulsions and Boise Cascade plants in White City to accommodate 143-ton rail cars that are heavier and more efficient than present cars.

RVTD seeks to upgrade its decades-old fare collection system, which requires paper-and-token processing. An update to the system would potentially be compatible with a mobile-ticketing system. The transportation district also will allocate funds to install solar panels on the maintenance building to reduce the cost of electricity and power the facility.

"We're really excited about these projects. It's something that's going to benefit the district," RVTD manager Julie Brown said. "We'll see a lot of return on it over the years."

The ConnectOregon grant provides the match for a federal grant RVTD received to pay for the $900,000 project.

The Medford airport will use the funding to make upgrades to Taxiway A, reconfiguring taxiways and improving the runways.

Kim Stearns, public information officer for the airport, said the proposal includes regrading and rehabilitating 5,000 feet of taxiway asphalt to meet new standards and installing LED light fixtures.

"Every grant dollar awarded helps," she said. "It allows us to move forward with the project."

The airport's project is projected to cost $9 million, Stearns said. Construction is slated to begin June 2017 and would more than likely continue into 2018.

Unspent grant money is returned to the ConnectOregon system.

Reach reporting intern Hannah Golden at hgolden@mailtribune.com.