RALEIGH - The N.C. Department of Transportation is seeking a new partner to operate the 13-mile Piedmont & Northern Railway line from Gastonia to Mount Holly in Gaston County following Patriot Rail's announcement that it will terminate its lease of the shortline railroad. The company has leased the track since 2012.
The railroad currently serves two businesses, averaging 12 carloads per month. The line presently connects with CSX Transportation at Mount Holly and Norfolk Southern at Gastonia.
"Our department believes that this rail line has the opportunity to be an economic driver, and we will collaborate with Gaston County to select the best railroad operator to accomplish that goal while providing seamless service to existing and prospective shippers," said NCDOT Rail Division Director Paul Worley.
"The Gaston County Commission looks forward to being a partner with the NCDOT Rail Division. We believe the rail line is a catalyst to economic growth and look forward to selecting a new operator that will provide service to businesses in need of a rail line," said Gaston County Commission Chairman Tracy Philbeck.
NCDOT originally purchased the out-of-use corridor in 1991 as part of its program to preserve rail corridors across the state from abandonment. With the support of the North Carolina General Assembly, NCDOT has invested $5 million over the last three years to upgrade the state-owned Mt. Holly to Gastonia rail corridor, with a $500,000 local funding match from Gaston County. The joint investment is aimed at attracting new business to the rail corridor with the goal of creating new jobs and boosting the local economy.
NCDOT will undergo a public procurement for a freight operator, with the goal of having a new operator in place on the line at the beginning of 2015. In the meantime, the two existing freight customers will continue to be serviced and the Rail Division continues to pursue additional business for the line in partnership with Gaston County.