MassDOT: Awards $2.4 Million 2020 IRAP VIII grants

MASSACHUSETTS INDUSTRIAL RAIL ACCESS PROGRAM GENERATES RECORD $7 MILLION FREIGHT RAIL DEVELOPMENT, DESPITE PANDEMIC-REDUCED STATE CONTRIBUTION.

As with every state in the Year of the Coronavirus, Massachusetts’ coffers are drastically lower than anticipated at the beginning of 2020. In line with all Massachusetts government agencies confronted by the state’s pandemic budget deficit, the 2020 IRAP VIII program reduced its grant budget by 11% compared to 2019.

But thanks in part to new eligibility standards introduced to the application process, that reduced public funding is leveraging considerably more grantee match funding to actually expand IRAP VIII total investment by 22%, to more than $7 million. The MassDOT Rail and Transit Division staff deserve kudos for this outstanding example of how public-private partnering can and should work.

2020/2019 MassDOT IRAP comparison
Comparison of 2020 IRAP VIII and 2019 IRAP VII awards illustrates dramatic improvement in the program’s efficacy. While public contribution has been reduced by 11%, private match funding is 40% higher, and net investment in freight rail improvements is up by 22% to over $7 million.

Readier-to-go

The IRAP eligibility criteria were recalibrated in the Round VIII application (issued 29.July.2019) to increase the likelihood that awarded projects would be quickly completed, compared to past IRAP rounds. Round VIII favors project applications that “demonstrate Project Readiness with a planned project duration of 6 months or less and a planned project completion date of June 30, 2020. Additionally, applicants have to validate that all project critical paths are cleared or in process, including ROW and railroad access agreements, design/engineering approval, environmental permitting, settlement of third-party interests, and community coordination {ANRP 05. Aug.2019}.

As a group, the five 2020 IRAP Round VIII award selections say some things about the direction of the IRAP program, particularly in comparison to prior rounds:

  1. None of the awards is to a railroad entity. In prior rounds, a railroad received at least one of the round’s awards. In 2017/Round V, five of the six awards were to railroad entities.
  2. The average private match percentage per award is 57%, with a high of 79% (Lynch Materials). In 2019/Round VII, the average match percentage was 46%, with a high of 59%. Since the program’s origination in 2012, the base match requirement for an IRAP applicant has been 40%.
  3. Three of the five awards align closely with Greenhouse Gas emissions reduction priorities, including Broco Oil’s biodiesel transload, Old Boston Road Recycling’s transfer station, and United Materials Management’s transfer and recycling station.
  4. There are no awards below $200,000, whereas prior years often awarded at least one “small” project. This might be construed to demonstrate that only larger companies can put up the matching capital that a “shovel-ready” IRAP grant requires. If this trend persists, MassDOT may need to consider program adjustments to support smaller players.

The 2021 recipients include the following:
Broco Oil Inc. ($218,738) 

The project will assist Broco Oil to increase the amount of bio-diesel fuel oil that they can receive by rail and distribute by adding a new siding and railcar mover to their new transload facility in Haverhill on the Pan Am. The result is expected to increase and improve reliability of railcar deliveries, reduce regional truck traffic and increase employment at the company. Broco Oil is providing 45% ($178,967) of the project cost ($397,705).


Leominster Packaging & Warehousing ($348,798) 

The project will support the installation of a new siding track and equipment to unload plastic pellets to meet demand of area plastic manufacturing businesses. The project will increase the volume of cargo being shipped by rail and eliminate over 300 truck trips on roads in the region. Leominster Packaging & Warehousing is providing 40% ($232,532) of the project cost ($581,330).


Lynch Materials ($500,000) 

The project will provide assistance in the construction of a railcar unloading facility to improve the sand and gravel supply chain to Eastern Massachusetts. Upon completion of the project, 16,000 truck trips will be removed from area roadways annually. Shipment of sand and gravel by rail will support the construction industry by improving reliability and reducing costs. Lynch Materials is providing a 79% match ($1,880,952). Total project cost: ($2,380,952).


Old Boston Road Recycling ($500,000) 

The grant will be used to install a baling system at a municipal waste transfer facility that will allow for waste to be baled into bags and loaded on railcars for shipment out of state. Installation of the system will result in the increased annual volume of over 3,000 railcars, the elimination of over 12,000 truck trips and additional employment at the facility. Old Boston Road Recycling is providing 71% ($1,224,137) of the project cost (Total $1,724,137).


City of Lawrence ($356,670) 

The project will result in the rehabilitation of the Lowell Hill Industrial Track, which runs from the railyard in Lawrence to the Lawrence Industrial Park. This project will improve the condition of the track that will lead to improved service to the industrial park and the existing rail shipper in the yard. A partnership between the City of Lawrence and area businesses will provide 40% ($237,780) of the project cost ($594,450).


United Material Management ($500,000) 

The grant will be used to install a baling system at a municipal waste transfer facility that will allow for waste to be baled into bags and loaded on railcars for shipment out of state. Installation of the system will result in the increased annual volume of over 1,500 railcars, the elimination of over 10,000 truck trips and additional employment at the facility. United Materials Management is providing 69% ($1,112,903) of the project cost ($1,612,903).