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Thursday, May 27, 2010

NCDOT seeking additional federal funds for passenger rail service

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The North Carolina Department of Transportation's Rail Division has applied for federal planning funds that would allow for the expansion of intercity passenger rail service to the western and southeastern parts of the state.

"It is exciting to think about the possibility of providing passenger rail service to western and southeastern North Carolinians," said NCDOT Secretary Gene Conti. "Those areas have long worked to secure service and are included in the State Rail Plan for bringing quality rail transportation to the state."

The funds, from the Federal Rail Administration, would be used to conduct environmental studies, engineering and design work for future intercity passenger services. These studies would assess ridership, revenues, construction and operating costs.

The passenger service design also must include sufficient rail network capacity to reliably operate freight, intermodal and passenger trains. Passenger trains operating at speeds for conventional intercity rail service travel up to 79 miles an hour.

The potential services would operate between Salisbury and Asheville, and between Raleigh and Wilmington via both Fayetteville and Goldsboro. The FRA will evaluate North Carolina's application for more than $8.3 million and announce competitive, discretionary grant awards later this year.

The state is applying for nearly $6.7 million in federal funds with about a $1.7 million from the state.

In January, North Carolina announced grants of $545 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for further development of the nearly 500-mile Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor. The grants will be used to make improvements, which will allow trains to travel between Charlotte and Washington, D.C., at top speeds of up to 90-110 miles per hour.