From equipment and stations to safety when traveling, the N.C. Department of Transportation's Rail Division has played a major role in improving and modernizing passenger service in North Carolina.
Over the past 25 years, the N.C. Department of Transportation has invested more than $1 billion of state and federal funds in state-supported intercity passenger rail service, including renovation or construction of train stations, track work improvements, safety improvements and corridor preservation.
The Rail Division continues to plan for future rail service in North Carolina. Major initiatives include the development of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor, service in southeast and western North Carolina and commuter rail services in Charlotte, the Triangle and Triad.
Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor Development
North Carolina is part of a four-state coalition formed to develop the Southeast High-Speed Rail corridor and provide frequent, reliable passenger trains that can travel at an average speed of 86 mph.
NCDOT and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation continue to coordinate planning efforts to improve and expand intercity passenger rail service in the Southeast with Amtrak. Both also look for opportunities to progress the high-speed rail project.
Benefits of the Southeast High-Speed Rail corridor include enhancing local economies, revitalizing urban centers, improving track safety and capacity as well as contributing to environmental sustainability.
Western North Carolina
To extend passenger rail service to Asheville and western North Carolina, the N.C. Department of Transportation, in March 2001, adopted a phased plan that includes renovating or building train stations that incorporate other community uses.
NCDOT works with communities on station and rail safety improvements while identifying funding to restore passenger rail service to the western part of the state.
In the interim, NCDOT has requested that Amtrak update a study that analyzes the feasibility of operating an Amtrak Thruway Bus service between Salisbury and Asheville. The service would gauge public interest in a mass transit option between Salisbury and Asheville and function as an intermediate step before seeking a more capital-intensive, long-term rail option.
Southeastern North Carolina
A feasibility study released in May 2001 as well as subsequent studies found that there is interest in passenger rail service to and from Wilmington.
The studies recommended implementing passenger rail service from Raleigh to Wilmington via Fayetteville and Goldsboro in phases as funding becomes available.
Other recommendations included investigating the possibility of commuter service between Selma and Raleigh and working with North Carolina Ports to define benefits and the investments needed to re-establish freight service between Goldsboro and Wilmington.
At the local level, the NCDOT is working with area transit authorities to plan commuter rail services for the greater Charlotte area, Triangle and Triad.