Study Overview and Goals
Once an integral and active freight and passenger rail corridor, the Andrews to Murphy rail line in Cherokee County was closed to freight traffic in 1985, following years of economic decline. Passenger service was discontinued almost 40 years before in 1948, as Americans moved to the automobile as the primary form of transportation.
With this rail line lying dormant for decades, many regional leaders believe it is an untapped resource. The North Carolina Department of Transportation’s Rail Division commissioned this study with the purpose of evaluating market potential, technical requirements and return on investment of reactivating the existing rail line from Andrews to Murphy.
Why This Study is Important
Rail service to this region has the potential to enhance the tourism industry as well as provide the opportunity to cost effectively transport raw materials and finished products to markets in North Carolina and beyond.
The study’s purpose is to evaluate the feasibility of reopening the rail line. It includes:
- Technical studies of infrastructure needs (track, bridges and supporting facilities)
- Cost and repair projections
- Operational considerations
- Economic forecasts (market assessment, economic development potential and funding sources)
- Examination of potential return on investment
Rail Evaluation Process
To evaluate the potential and viability of tourism, passenger and/or freight rail on the Andrews to Murphy line, decision-makers and stakeholders examined not only objective measures, but also more subjective input, including stakeholder interviews and comparative case studies. The rail line analysis used the TREDIS (Transportation Economic Development Impact System) model to understand the impact of freight and ancillary development. Public engagement through one-on-one stakeholder interviews, a public symposium and focus group discussions played a part in the evaluation, as well.
Market Potential and Investment Viability
Stakeholder interviews, comparative case studies and economic modeling were important components of the analyses. Results of the stakeholder interviews were generally positive. Return on investment analysis indicates that the service would provide a significant boost to Cherokee County’s economic vitality.
Environmental resources – streams, wetlands, protected floodplains and protected species – along the rail corridor were evaluated, as well as possible direct impacts to these resources. Information, including a preliminary assessment on the human environment surrounding the rail corridor, such as historic structures, farmlands and schools in close proximity to the rail line is also provided in the report.
Recommendations and Conclusions
The findings in this report indicate that reactivating freight and tourism service on the Andrews to Murphy rail line would provide an economic boost to Cherokee County, and should be considered along with other rail priorities in western North Carolina.
The Andrews to Murphy (A2M) Rail Reactivation Study was completed in February 2015.
The project team used a comprehensive outreach strategy to ensure adequate participation and a cross-section of viewpoints on the advantages and disadvantages of reactivating the Andrews to Murphy rail line. The strategy used a series of active outreach methods and included stakeholder interviews, surveys, public information sessions, discussion groups and a project symposium.
Outreach events were:
- February 25, 2014 - Regional Focus Group
- March 31, 2014 - Discussions Public Symposium
- Spring 2014 - Stakeholder Interviews
Marc L. Hamel
Rail Project Development Manager
- Phone: (919) 707-4705
- Email: Contact Us
- Address: NCDOT Rail Division
1553 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1553