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North Carolina will receive $1.09 billion for passenger rail line to better connect with Virginia

Christian Fernsby |
President Biden and US Department of Transportation officials announced that North Carolina will receive a $1.09 billion discretionary federal grant to design and build the first segment of the S-Line, a passenger rail line to better connect North Carolina and Virginia, and rural and urban communities in North Carolina.

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“This is great news and underscores our successful efforts to build a transportation system that works for all North Carolinians,” Governor Roy Cooper said.

“The S-Line is a critical project that will provide fast, frequent and reliable service connecting North Carolina, Virginia and the Northeast. It extends our already popular passenger rail service between Charlotte and Raleigh, and provides people, especially those in underserved areas, a safe, convenient and inexpensive way to get where they’re going.”

“We are grateful to our federal partners who recognize the importance of transportation to our quality of life and getting people better access to jobs, health care and educational opportunities,” said NC Department of Transportation Secretary Joey Hopkins.

“We envision a future with modern, efficient and sustainable passenger rail providing reliable and comfortable travel between North Carolina and the Northeast.”

State officials and congressional offices were notified on Tuesday of the impending award, part of more than $8 billion being awarded throughout the country from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and announced today by President Biden in Las Vegas.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) grant awarded this week to the N.C. Department of Transportation will be used to complete the initial phase of the Raleigh to Richmond Innovating Rail Program, which includes construction on the S-Line rail corridor from Raleigh to Wake Forest.

The $1.09 billion grant marks the largest grant the NCDOT has received to date.

The federal rail agency on Friday also awarded the NCDOT seven grants totaling $3.5 million as part of the Corridor Identification and Development program. These grants will help enhance the state’s existing passenger rail services between Charlotte and Raleigh and expand passenger rail into other areas of North Carolina and other states.

The S-Line rail corridor is a freight line, owned by CSX, that connects Richmond and Raleigh on the federally-designated Southeast Corridor. Virginia has already acquired the line in their state from CSX, and North Carolina officials are working to finish a deal to purchase the corridor in North Carolina.

Once the Raleigh to Richmond program is complete, the passenger rail service will save over an hour of travel time between the two cities.

The service will also allow much more frequent and reliable train service and make the trip to Washington D.C. competitive with driving times.

“What has made this project so successful is the partnership we have with the cities and towns along the S-Line,” said Julie White, NCDOT’s deputy secretary for Multimodal Transportation.

“Bringing passenger rail back to the downtowns will further community efforts to grow vibrant main streets with mixed-use developments.”

Officials will use the $1.09 billion grant for final engineering design, right of way acquisition and construction costs for the section of the S-Line from Raleigh to Wake Forest.

The money will also be used on new and upgraded track and replacement of at-grade crossings with highway/rail overpasses.

Officials plan to upgrade the existing freight rail line to accommodate passenger rail service while maintaining the existing freight rail service. Construction in Wake County will also include highway and rail bridges, including two safety projects in Cary that are also on the Southeast Corridor.

The NCDOT will also receive from FRA $3.5 million in Corridor Identification and Development program grants, the Federal Railroad Administration announced Friday.

Those seven grants will be used to begin the planning process for developing passenger services on rail corridors between:

Charlotte and Atlanta
Charlotte and Kings Mountain
Charlotte and Washington D.C.
Fayetteville and Raleigh
Wilmington and Raleigh
Winston-Salem and Raleigh
Salisbury and Asheville

“Offering more passenger rail services along the S-Line will bring even greater benefits to North Carolina for decades to come,” said Jason Orthner, director of NCDOT’s Rail Division.

“Adding to our existing passenger rail service will save people more time and money, make travel more efficient and comfortable, and will help reduce congestion on our highways.”

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