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The PennDOT Bureau of Rail Freight, Ports and Waterways is responsible for carrying out primary planning for the Bureau's two annual grant assistance programs, the Rail Freight Assistance Program and the Rail Transportation Assistance Program (Capital Budget).

The Bureau develops grant program investment strategies that reflect the programs' authorized goals and objectives. The current goals and objectives are to preserve and improve rail freight infrastructure and service, promote economic development by means of rail freight, provide financial assistance, and facilitate the integration of rail freight with other modes of transportation. These strategies are then incorporated into project evaluation criteria used to score candidate projects. Bureau staff scores each project on specific criteria.

In addition, staff is responsible for the Pennsylvania railroads system map (see Resources). Necessary map updates are made based on U.S. Department of Transportation Surface Transportation Board actions and railroad industry news sources.

Staff also selects and completes targeted studies to support Bureau grant programs or those relevant to Pennsylvania's freight railroad industry.

Bureau personnel function as PennDOT's representatives in local, regional, and national forums and studies for issues relevant to Pennsylvania's rail freight industry. They also participate in outreach between PennDOT and freight railroads, industry organizations, the rail shipper community, Metropolitan and Rural Planning Organizations, and PennDOT's Engineering Districts.