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Southeastern Railway Museum Receives TEA-21 Grant

The Southeastern Railway Museum was approved June 30 to receive $648,000 in funding from the federal TEA-21 program. TEA-21 (Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century) was enacted in 1998 to replace ISTEA (Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991).

The $648,000 represents 80% of an $810,000 project to continue converting the museum's primary public building into an exhibition hall.

The 28,618SF building was used for many years as a manufacturing and repair facility for tanks (both for rail and non-rail use) and for stationary boilers. It is part of a donation received in 1997 which includes 30 acres and two other buildings.

SRM volunteers have already removed old conduit and pipes from the building's interior, and a project to install a new electrical system is nearing completion. Outside contractors have fenced the site, renovated an employees' locker area into public restrooms, and replaced much of the exterior metal shell. While site grading - including the installation of water and sewer lines - gets underway, museum volunteers will begin laying track inside the building and preparing the exhibits, to include two locomotives and four passenger cars. (see On Exhibit - The Golden Age of Rail for details)

The TEA-21 funds will allow Phase II and Phase III exhibition hall expansion projects to begin much sooner than originally planned. These phases include the addition of an audio-visual room, production of a brief "introductory" film for museum visitors, construction of an ADA ramp to provide viewing areas for the interiors of the historic rolling stock, and additional exhibits designed to increase public knowledge of transportation history and transportation options.

TEA-21 programs and funding are administered by each individual state; in Georgia, the governing authority is the Georgia Department of Transportation.

Funding for transportation history museums is a new category for fiscal year 2000, which begins October 1. Transportation museums fall under the broader category of "Historic Resources Projects." All projects within this category must be directly tied to structures or objects which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places; in the case of SRM, the recent listing of the Superb made this project eligible. (more information)

TEA-21 ranking criteria for transportation museum projects are: (a) permanence of the project, (b) relationship to a National Register listed transportation building, object, or structure, (c) impact on educating the public about transportation history, (d) ability to maintain and operate the facility, (e) level of community and statewide support, and (f) quality of the project.

To receive TEA-21 funds, a private non-profit corporation must be sponsored by a governmental agency. SRM's application was sponsored by Gwinnett County.

TEA-21 is not a grant program, but an 80/20 reimbursement program. The Atlanta NRHS and the Southeastern Railway Museum will be responsible for providing 20% of the project cost: $162,000.

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