The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Railroad Administration on Wednesday announced a $2.57 million grant for K-State.

K-State’s Rural Railroad Safety Center is among the 45 projects that received a total of $326 million in grant funds for the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements program.

K-State will lead the project with partner institutions — the University of Nebraska, Lincoln; the University of Florida; Pennsylvania State University, Altoona; and California State University, Chico. The schools will focus on railroad industry workforce development and safety research.

Eric Fitzsimmons, a Carl R. Ice College of Engineering assistant professor of civil engineering, is slated to lead the project. Civil engineering professor Robert Peterman and associate professors Christopher Jones and Stacey Kulesza will collaborate.

The center has four goals. The first is to conduct and promote railroad safety research with the Federal Railroad Administration and railroad partners. The universities also want to develop a “comprehensive unified railroad education curriculum” that would be given at all the institutions. The center would also publish research results and host seminars and other outreach activities.

“By the end of the three-year grant period, it is our goal to have evolved into a vibrant center for industry-relevant railroad research,” Fitzsimmons said in a press release. “Additional educational and outreach programs will be in place to train and develop a diverse workforce for the railroad industry and our research outcomes will help ensure the future of the rail industry is as safe and efficient as possible.”

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, said the state economy depends on railways, and he’s happy K-State received grant funding.

“This grant to establish the Rural Railroad Safety Center at K-State will help solidify Kansas as a leader in rail transpiration and share the expertise of officials at K-State with the rest of the country and industry,” Moran said. “I was pleased to support efforts to help secure this funding from the Department of Transportation, and look forward to working alongside the university to build and grow this innovative program.”