Rail projects get go-ahead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 22, 2011

RALEIGH — Gov. Bev Perdue announced today that North Carolina has reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Co., Amtrak and N.C. Railroad Co. that allows construction to begin on the state’s rail modernization program, bringing more than 4,000 jobs to the state in the short run and boosting economic activity over the longer term.
“Rail is a critical component in North Carolina’s economic development infrastructure,” Perdue said. “Improving speed and efficiency for both passenger and freight services demonstrates our commitment to the future.”
“Norfolk Southern joins with the North Carolina Railroad in supporting improvements to North Carolina’s rail network, for the benefit of passengers and long-term economic development,” said Norfolk Southern CEO Wick Moorman.
The agreement, approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, triggers release of $461 million in 100 percent federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will pay for upgrades to tracks between Raleigh and Charlotte, bridges and crossing safety improvements, station expansions in four cities along that path and construction of a maintenance facility in Charlotte.
The funding also will enable North Carolina to improve the speed and reliability of passenger service, add a fourth daily round trip between Charlotte and Raleigh in coming years and refurbish locomotives and rail cars.
The state will proceed with 24 construction projects in 11 counties, ranging from adding double tracks between Charlotte and Greensboro to building a dozen new bridges to eliminate 30 at-grade highway crossings.
Funding for projects includes:
Davidson — $44,545,437
Davidson and Rowan for a project crossing county lines — $1,444,659
Rowan — $98,657,349
Wake, Durham, Alamance, Guilford, Davidson, Rowan, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg — $39,598,176
North Carolina was awarded $545 million in grant funds last year from the federal government. Norfolk Southern leases the line between Raleigh and Charlotte from the state-owned NC Railroad Company.
Under the agreement, North Carolina will work with Norfolk Southern to design and construct the rail improvements.
“We’re grateful to Norfolk Southern for partnering with us in putting people back to work and better serving shippers in North Carolina,” said State Transportation Secretary Gene Conti. “We’ll be providing an improved transportation alternative for travelers that also saves energy, reduces carbon emissions and protects the environment.”
North Carolina already had received $59 million of the Recovery grants and put it to use adding a third daily round trip, purchasing equipment, upgrading stations in Cary, Burlington, High Point and Kannapolis and planning for the next stage of construction.
In addition to increasing passenger rail capacity, the rail network improvements are designed to enhance safety, improve service reliability and preserve existing freight capacity.