The N.C. Department of Transportation invested in the modernization of North Carolina's railways through the Piedmont Improvement Program, a series of railroad and highway construction projects and enhancements between Raleigh and Charlotte that were aimed at making train travel safer and more reliable.
Improvements helped bring about more opportunities for businesses and freight partners. Additionally, safety and efficiency on the tracks allow freight railroads to get more goods to communities in the state to bring about job growth and economic development.
North Carolina has nearly 3,300 miles of track used by passenger and freight trains alike. The Piedmont Improvement Program also benefits Class One railroads, such as Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation.
Projects in the Piedmont Improvement Program, completed in 2018, included track, roadway, signal, station and equipment upgrades necessary for improved freight service and increased passenger rail service frequencies.
Specifically, the Piedmont Improvement Program involved:
- Building 13 bridges to carry roadways over or under railroad tracks to separate traffic from trains and improve safety for motorists.
- Adding 27 miles of parallel, or second track, on the heavily traveled corridor between Greensboro and Charlotte, making the entire 92-mile segment double track.
- Adding five miles of passing sidings between Raleigh and Greensboro to help freight and passenger trains move in a more reliable and timely manner.
- Building approximately 12 miles of new highway to facilitate the new highway bridges and remove railroad crossings.
- Closing more than 40 railroad crossings to eliminate the potential for train and vehicle collisions.
- Improving railroad curves for more consistent higher operating speeds.
- Installing remote controlled high-speed switches in five locations to allow trains to quickly move between tracks.
- Renovating train stations in Cary, High Point, Burlington and Kannapolis.
- Refurbishing and adding passenger rail cars to the fleet.
- Adding two daily passenger-train round trips – making a total of five daily – between Raleigh and Charlotte with seven stops in between.
Projects in the Piedmont Improvement Program were largely funded with federal stimulus money through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Additionally, the Federal Railroad Administration in 2010 awarded North Carolina a $520 million grant from that program.