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Delmarva Central Railroad receives millions in federal grant to improve aging freight infrastructure

A nearly 100-year-old rail line that carries agricultural supplies and other freight into Delaware is getting a spiff-up.

Delaware’s Congressional Delegation gathered in Harrington Friday to announce a more than $18 million infrastructure improvement grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to the Delmarva Central Railroad. 

The railroad is the primary rail corridor through the Delmarva Peninsula, according to officials in Sen. Tom Carper’s office. It adds to the shipping options for rural companies and farmers. 

Along with the grant, the privately owned railroad will invest close to $30 million to upgrade its rail bridges over the C&D canal, the Nanticoke and the Pocomoke rivers. It’ll also upgrade public rail crossings and the main rail line. 

Delaware Sec. of Agriculture Michael Scuse says the rail line is essential for Delaware’s poultry industry. 

“We only raise about half of the grain that it takes to feed our poultry industry,” said Scuse at Friday’s press event. “The rest of it has to come in by the train. The fertilizer and nitrogen that feed our crops, a lot of that comes in by train.”

Scuse says the upgrades to the aging infrastructure will help prevent interruptions.

Cliff Grunstra, Delmarva Central Railroad’s chief marketing officer, says the company, a subsidiary of Carload Express, is a small but important business. 

“We’re critical to the economy here,” said Grunstra. “Billions of dollars of economic activity depend on this railroad. Each year we move over 5 billion pounds of freight serving a variety of industries that count on safe and reliable rail transportation to support their businesses and the thousands of jobs they generate.”

Delaware’s Congressional Delegation lobbied the Transportation Department last year to help the railroad, saying it connects rural areas in southern Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia to the national rail network, and supports major industries and regional employers.

Roman Battaglia contributed to this report.

Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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