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West Plains railroad crossing project awarded $2M federal grant

A years-long project meant to improve safety and traffic around a railroad crossing in West Plains is moving forward following an investment from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced a $2.2 million grant to the city. The investment will help replace a railroad crossing on Highway 160 with a bridge and overpass in an effort to increase safety and reduce traffic jams. The project is expected to total $9.7 million and is receiving another $3.9 million in local, state, and federal funds. 

“President Biden is committed to supporting communities in developing safe and resilient infrastructure to serve businesses and create American jobs,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said. “This project will improve transportation safety in the region and will mitigate negative impacts of flooding, improving business resiliency and creating a stronger regional economy.”

According to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), more than 5,500 cars travel through the crossing every day. In its initial application for federal funding, the department cited a 2017 flood that effectively split the city in half for more than 24 hours. 

In addition to providing access to businesses and increasing railroad safety, the department said the bridge would protect the area from similar closures.

“This announcement is great news for West Plains,” U.S. Senator Roy Blunt said. “The new bridge and overpass will help prevent flood-related road closures that have disrupted local businesses at the critically important industrial park. I’m glad this funding will help the community get the resources it needs to complete a project that has been a years-long priority.”

Economic development would be another benefit of the new bridge: In addition to creating 50 jobs for its construction, the project is touted to allow local businesses to expand and allow motorists to cross the city faster. 

An additional $31 million in private investments is expected. 

“This award announcement is great news for the West Plains community, the local economy, and our state,” Gov. Mike Parson said. “Public investments in infrastructure like this one spark millions more in private investment and are critical to expanding workforce opportunities and advancing our economy.”

The project recently received a $2.5 million Community Development Block Grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The construction project does not yet have a start date. 

The investment was made possible through the South Central Ozark Council of Governments (SCOCOG), a group funded by the EDA to handle community planning and grant administration.