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State Rail Grant and Loan Programs

The state of Washington administers both a grant program and a loan program designed to support freight rail capital needs. The Connecting Washington transportation package passed by the legislature and signed into law in July 2015 has increased the amount of available funding in the grant program.

The application deadline for 2017-2019 biennium funding was July 15, 2016, for Freight Rail Assistance Program projects. Applications for the Freight Rail Investment Bank program will be accepted though Sept. 20, 2016. Funds for both programs will be available July 2017.

The Resource Guide (pdf 61 kb) was provided to help in successfully completing the questions that support Benefit Cost Analysis.

Freight Rail Investment Bank

The Freight Rail Investment Bank program is a loan program available to the public sector. This program is intended for either smaller projects or as a small part of a larger project, where state funds would enable the project to be completed.

  • The governor and state legislature allocated $5 million for the Freight Rail Investment Bank program during the 2017-2019 biennium.
  • This loan program is open to organizations in the public sector only, as loans to the private sector are outside the constitution of the state.
  • The loan maximum is $250,000, but could be higher depending on the amount of qualifying applications received and the caliber of proposed projects. Additionally, all applicants must provide a minimum 20 percent match.
  • The application period was reopened in September 2016, but has now closed.

Freight Rail Assistance Program

The Freight Rail Assistance Program is a grant program open to applicants in both the public and private sector. This program is directed toward larger projects where it is difficult to gain a contribution and where the rail location or the project is of strategic importance to the local community and the state.

  • The legislature allocated $7.04 million for freight rail assistance projects during the 2017–2019 biennium. It is not restricted in the size of award.
  • The legislature determines how those funds will be spent based upon the applications submitted through WSDOT. The legislature may choose to increase or decrease the actual funding made available.
  • This is a grant program and is open to cities, county rail districts, counties, economic development councils, port districts, and privately or publicly owned railroads.
  • Projects must be shown to maintain or improve the freight rail system in the state and benefit the state's interests.
  • The 2016 application process is closed.

Administration and Scoring

The grant and loan programs are administered by WSDOT and require the applicants to provide a business plan for the project and are subject to a benefit/cost calculation to ensure that they are generating public benefits.

All criteria in the Freight Rail Assistance Program (grant program) are scored by WSDOT. Representatives from the Washington State Department of Commerce, Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, and the Washington Public Ports Association also participate. The criteria were developed in 2008 and are detailed in the application packet found above.

The criteria are slightly different for the Freight Rail Investment Bank (loan program), as the application process allows the applicant to self-score 80 percent of their marks, which are based on such things as their own financial contribution and number of additional jobs that the project will bring to the area.

For more information:

WSDOT Rail, Freight, and Ports Division
PO Box 47407
Olympia, WA 98504-7407