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Commuter rail system gets price tag

Posted October 9, 2008

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— The North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR) released an 11-month study Thursday that determined rush-hour commuter trains can operate on NCRR tracks along with freight trains from Greensboro to Goldsboro.

“I think we have the potential to be a leader in commuter rail transportation because we own an extremely valuable, 200-foot-wide corridor through the state,” said Scott Saylor, NCRR president.

Plans for a light-rail system stopped when federal funding fell through. Many said it was too expensive. So NCRR, which owns a 317-mile right-of-way from Morehead City to Charlotte, conducted its study to find out if commuter trains could run on current tracks – a cheaper way toward a commuter rail system.

“Our answer is yes. We think it's possible. In fact, we know it's possible,” said Bill Kincheloe, chairman of the NCRR board of directors.

If a Goldsboro-to-Greensboro commuter plan were implemented on the NCRR corridor, trains would make 29 stops in seven counties with a total population of more than 2 million, with 18 colleges and universities within two miles of the rail lines.

Durham Mayor Bill Bell says he likes the idea, but has concerns over funding.

“How does it get funded? We've got a lot of different needs that local government has, and we've got to put some priority on them,” Bell said.

Total infrastructure cost for new tracks, sidings and bridges along the 141 miles would be $650 million, and equipment and support facilities are estimated at $350 million.

Commuter rail on the NCRR could be implemented in less expensive phases according to ridership demand, Kincheloe said.

Some commuters say dense traffic on local highways is enough reason to give rail high priority.

“I think we need to afford whatever we need to afford, and again with the smog that all the cars are producing, I think we really don't have a choice,” commuter Michael Teague said.

Detailed studies on ridership and operating cost would have to be conducted, Kincheloe said.

“Eventually, something like this will have to be done,” Kincheloe added.

On NCRR's tracks, existing freight service, operated by Norfolk Southern, already touches 24 percent of the state’s economy and is projected to increase.

Funding for the rail conversion, NCRR representatives say, would have to come from all levels of government: federal, state and local.


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  • VITAMIN X Oct 10, 2008


  • FromClayton Oct 10, 2008

    I would ride it. It's got to come close to my house and go close to my work and come often. but if they could do all that, I would take it. I also need it to run until 8pm or so. But other cities have figured this out, I'm sure we can too.

  • turnpike420 Oct 10, 2008

    KevInApex - This article is talking about an NCRR project that is completely separate from TTA or STAC's plan to put in regional rail between Ral/Dur and Dur/CH. It is the TTA/STAC plan which does not address a connection to the airport, due to the Airport Authority saying NO b/c they spent millions on parking infrastructure instead of coordinating to spend money to bring rail to RDU. That said... NCRR's commuter rail plan is also plagued with oddities. Who wants to live in Goldsboro and work in Greensboro and visa-versa?? Does adding the 2 parallel tracks for NCRR's plan trump or integrate into the 2 parallel tracks TTA/STAC are asking for?

    All these agencies continue to waste our tax dollars looking at solutions independently of one another. That very thing is how we got where we are today. They have to come together into one room and one room only to pound this out for the Triangle. Rail can succeed and should be built, but not until there is a single, combined effort.

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Oct 10, 2008

    Gov't facilitates transportation using our tax dollars. The key is for them to do this efficiently. I also think do it with as little enviromental damage as possible, but I think most will agree transportation should be as quick and cheap as possible.

    I'm not an expert, but at some point their are calculations of how much it cost to move an estimated number of people some distance (per mile) in some reasonable time. If, to meet demand, the train system cost a billion and all the new roads would cost 10 billion, build the train; if that is reversed, build the roads.

    For me the enviroment is included, so I may give more weight to plans that reduce emissions and the paving over the world, but not absolute priority.

  • colliedave Oct 10, 2008

    Funding for the rail conversion, NCRR representatives say, would have to come from all levels of government: federal, state and local.

    And where will government get this money? If government is to take over the banks, why not the railroads? Then health-care.....

  • ezLikeSundayMorning Oct 10, 2008

    It won't directly help me, but indirectly, by reducing the long distance commuters on the road, it would help. Think of all the people that commute from Johnston County, Sanford, and Wilson; those are the people that existing train tracks make sense for. And then a bunch of cars will be off the road and out of my way.

  • enoughsenough Oct 10, 2008

    With the econony as it is, u would think they could find better ways to use that money.

  • jgriffith3792 Oct 10, 2008

    Who is that keeps brining this up? Every 3-6 months this topic comes up. It gets shot down for various - and IMHO - good reasons, and then a little while later here it is again.

    Sounds like to me some fat cat wants to line his/her pocket with my taxes. Enough already.

  • CestLaVie Oct 10, 2008

    But guess what? Thanks to our tanking economy, this too will be put on hold now. Perhaps during this downtime, studies can be done to find the best way to improve traffic problems, with a combo of many ways! But something has to be done-that's for sure!

  • Just the facts mam Oct 9, 2008

    I can only speak for myself, but unless it runs by my front door at the time I have to go to work and drops me off at the front door of where I work, then I will never use it. Sounds like another idea for a big waste of taxpayer money - I hope I never see it and hope more I do not have to pay for it!