Brownsville & Rio Grande International Railway submits ESREM Project for funding with Federal Railroad Administration

On November 29, the Brownsville & Rio Grade International Railway (BRG) submitted its application to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to fund the Efficient and Safe Rail Exports to Mexico (ESREM) Project.  ESREM is a Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) project. 

The window for applications closed on November 29, and FRA will announce winners of the competitive grant in the coming months.  ESREM was submitted by the Port of Brownsville on July 29, 2021 for the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP) at MARAD.  PIDP grant winners have not yet been announced by MARAD, and the FRA application gives ESREM another chance for a competitive selection.

The Efficient and Safe Rail Exports to Mexico (ESREM) Project is a $8,277,300 project seeking a CRISI grant of $6,621,836 to upgrade BRG rail infrastructure in the Port of Brownsville. 

ESREM will replace 100-year-old steel rail and switches which are a derailment threat for liquid fuels trains on the port’s North Lead.  The Project will also replace a single-track wooden bridge bottleneck which is the only rail access to the port.  These elements have been identified by the Texas State Rail Plan as network challenges that limit railroad capacity, efficiency, velocity, safety, and freight mobility in the state.  ESREM will also install a new rail scale to ease rail exports to Mexico while reducing rail interference with truck traffic in the port. 

ESREM will improve safety by reducing derailment risk and replacing switches to reduce the risk of railroad employee injuries.  The project will move traffic by rail instead of truck, reduce carbon emissions, increase air quality, and reduce congestion on truck routes to the Mexican border.  The project is a key component in Brownsville’s heated competition with the Mexican port of Altamira.  ESREM will generate $4,018,612 in net benefits across 8 categories of public and rail operations benefits, returning a benefit-cost ratio of 1.58-to-1.00.

Application documentation can be accessed by US DOT and FRA reviewers using the passwords provided in the grant application narrative and the links below.

A. Narrative: ESREM_A_Narrative_CRISI.pdf– This narrative.

B. Statement of Work: ESREM_B_SOW_CRISI.pdf – Required Statement of Work

C. Benefit-cost analysis: ESREM_C_BCA_CRISI.xlsx– Benefit-Cost Analysis in MS Excel form

D. BCA explanation: ESREM_D_BCA_Explain_CRISI.pdf – Explanation of the BCA

E. Cat Ex Worksheet: ESREM_E_CE_CRISI.pdf– NEPA Categorical Exclusion Worksheet prepared by Golder Associates

F. Support letters: ESREM_F_Support_CRISI.pdf– Letters of support from:  U.S. Senator John Cornyn,U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzales (TX-15), State Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., State Rep. Alex Dominguez,Cameron Co. Judge Eddie Treviño, and additional community leaders and port customers.

G. Project budget: ESREM_G_Budget_CRISI.xlsx – Budget documents, including tables used in this narrative

H. Commitment letter: ESREM_H_Commitments_CRISI.pdf– Letter from BRG / OmniTRAX, Inc pledging 20.0% match for the project.

I. Procurement statement: ESREM_I_Procurement_CRISI.pdf – Statement that the applicant has a system for procuring property and services under a federal award

J. Documentation letters: ESREM_J_Document_CRISI.pdf– Letters from the heads of relevant departments and consultants explaining values used in the BCA and this appendix.

L. Financial Capability: ESREM_K_Financial_CRISI.pdf– FRA Form F 251

M. Organization chart: ESREM_L_OrgChart_CRISI.pdf– Required attachment for FRA Form F 251