SNOW HILL — Hoping the fourth time is the charm, the Worcester County Commissioners agreed to send an application to seek U.S. Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) funding.
“I think everyone knows the importance of this project to protect jobs in Snow Hill,” said Economic Development Director Bill Badger.
The county will be applying for the fourth round of TIGER funds. So far, Worcester has been a co-applicant along with the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT), the Maryland and Delaware Railroad (MDR) and other businesses like Perdue and Tyson in all three previous rounds.
Worcester has promised to provide $100,000 in matching funding in each round if MDR is able to secure a TIGER grant but the applications have been unsuccessful so far. However, MDR President Eric Callaway told the commission that he was more optimistic this round.
“MDOT is really getting aggressive with this,” he said.
Callaway explained that TIGER funding would be used to pay for a $12 million upgrade of the MDR to Snow Hill. This round, he was confident that the application would be able to attract matching funds from a larger variety of businesses.
“We need to spread our feet out a little bit,” said Callaway.
“We’ll be able to spend much more time getting more stakeholders involved,” he said.
Callaway stressed the importance of the rail to the poultry industry but also spoke of how it ties into less obvious businesses as well. And the project wouldn’t be just a railroad, he continued, but would include water and natural gas supply as well.
Commissioner Louise Gulyas urged the commission to support the application.
“Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” she said.
Commission President Bud Church expressed some concerns with the lack of success during the first three rounds. However, Callaway argued there was no reason to turn back now.
Badger informed the commission that MDOT would be willing to up their matching funds from $1 million to $1.5 million if Worcester raised its’ commitment from $100,000 to $150,000 this round. He also pointed out that no funding would be lost if unsuccessful.
“It’s not a forgotten issue down here,” said Callaway on railroads. “It’s very important.”
The commission voted unanimously to pursue the TIGER funding and agreed to match $150,000 if successful.