Southeast Corridor route was selected from several options as the result of a study completed in 2002 – referred to as a Tier I study – that identified the need, as well as a vision, for higher-speed passenger rail service in the region.
Two of the rail segments critical to improving the Southeast Corridor are in North Carolina: Charlotte to Raleigh and Raleigh to Richmond.
Charlotte to Raleigh
A Tier II environmental study followed on the Charlotte-to-Raleigh segment that, when completed and approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, cleared the way for NCDOT to apply for and receive a $520 million grant in 2010 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The grant was used to fund the Piedmont Improvement Program, a series of projects to improve safety and add capacity to the railroad.
Completed in August 2017, safety improvements involved building bridges for trains to cross over or under vehicular traffic and closing some railroad crossings. NCDOT also built roads and parallel railroad tracks along parts of the corridor that move freight and passengers through the heart of the state.
Improvements also involved adding up to two daily passenger-train round trips between Charlotte and Raleigh – making a total of five round trips daily. An additional round trip is expected to be added in May 2018.
Other work involved improving stations and equipment to allow for additional passenger trips between the two cities.
Raleigh to Richmond
A significant study of the second segment between Raleigh and Richmond – the Southeast High-Speed Rail Tier II Final Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond Study – verified CSXT's former Seaboard Air Line Railroad (S-Line) as the best route for higher-speed passenger rail, between the two cities, and included preliminary designs for construction.
The S-Line corridor runs from Raleigh to Wake Forest to Henderson on to Richmond. The rail line is removed from Norlina to Petersburg, Va., while the rail line between Raleigh to Norlina is an active line.
A Record of Decision documenting the Federal Railroad Administration's approval of study findings was signed March 24, 2017.
With the Record of Decision signed, NCDOT is now working to identify funding sources for final design, land acquisitions, construction and service implementation.
The completion of the Tier II Final Environmental Impact Statement Raleigh to Richmond study and preliminary design process has put the corridor on a firm footing to apply for federal funding or public-private partnerships, should either become available, and matching state funds can be identified.
Once the rail line is restored and built to standards needed for higher-speed trains, the rail line would offer a faster and more direct route north and would help alleviate congestion.