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Johnston County growth spurs demand for commuter rail

Posted May 3, 2010

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— Population growth in Johnston County could be the engine that brings a commuter rail system to the Triangle.

The North Carolina Railroad Co., which owns a 317-mile rail corridor that stretches from Charlotte to Morehead City, recently completed a rail ridership study in seven counties, from Greensboro to Goldsboro. The results of the study will be presented next week during a conference in Raleigh on how rail benefits the state economy.

Train track, rail line generic Adding commuter rail could cost $1B

Sources told WRAL News that the study has found that growth in Johnston County has generated demand for a rail line from Goldsboro to Raleigh to offer commuters in Clayton and other parts of the county another option to driving U.S. Highway 70 or Interstate 40 to Raleigh.

The county's population jumped by 38 percent between 2000 and last year, while Clayton grew by 69 percent during that period, officials said. Four of every five Johnston County workers drove to work by themselves in 2000, and about half lived at least 30 minutes from their workplace, according to census information.

"Conventional commuter rail has not been used here before, so we wanted to know what the market is," NCRR President Scott Saylor said, declining to comment on the results of the ridership study.

An earlier NCRR study determined that new tracks could be laid within the company's 200-foot-wide corridor, allowing commuter trains to run alongside the freight trains that use NCRR rail lines daily.

The cost for the project was estimated at $1 billion, or about $7 million per mile.

Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said a half-cent local sales tax for transit would be one way to raise the money for a commuter rail system. County officials would have to agree to place such a tax on the ballot for voter approval.

"We're hearing there is a significant demand" for a rail system," Meeker said. "Quite frankly, we're way behind, and we need to catch up."

James Kaelin and his wife moved from Boston to Clayton two years ago to escape New England winters and urban congestion. He said he wouldn't mind a sales tax increase to pay for better transit in the Triangle.

"More people (are) coming in and bringing in a bigger tax base for the counties," Kaelin said. "(I would support it) as long as the money went to (the rail system) and didn't go to something else."

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  • Sir Narron OF Johnston May 12, 2010

    i live in Wilson's Mills and drive to RTP everyday ...this would be great ...and no we don't need gun racks and spitoons.OR our belongings on a stick ..but we will have a stick for the yankee's we meet ...get some ...

  • ahblid May 5, 2010

    asdfg wrote: "Then, it could link up to the bus system in Raleigh, but why spend all that money laying track, when buses could do the same job at a lower cost. Last time I checked the bus system around the Triangle was still being subsidized by the government, why would train be any different?"

    A good question that deserves an answer. The reason is that the buses aren't cheaper. On average in this country, according to the National Transit Database for 2008, it costs transit agencies 80 cents in operating costs to move 1 person 1 mile on a bus. And that doesn't include fixing the damage that those buses cause to the roads, that expense falls squarely on taxpayer's shoulders.

    For light rail, like Charlotte just built, on average it costs 60 cents to do the same job. For commuter rail, which is what's being discussed here, it costs 40 cents to move 1 person 1 mile.

    Just for comparison, CAT spends 85 cents moving 1 person 1 mile on a bus.

  • ncsufamily24 May 4, 2010

    They'll have to equip them with gun racks and spitoons.
    :)

    The only people riding a train in Johnston county are carrying a stick with a red bandana tied to the end with all their belongings in it.
    :)

  • WhiskeyTangoFoxtrot May 4, 2010

    They'll have to equip them with gun racks and spitoons.

  • voip May 4, 2010

    Let's the build the rail system now. It will encourage FUTURE growth along density corridors. Do you really want highways that are 12 lanes wide (atlanta/dc)? One accident and it ties everything up.

  • JustAName May 4, 2010

    As pointed out by others, what works in New York City and Boston, will not work here. 822.7 people per square mile in Mass. as compared to 186.0 people per square mile in North Carolina. Boston has a population density of over 5000 people per square mile, compared to NC most densely populated county with barely over 1600 people per square mile.

  • asdfg May 4, 2010

    I assume the train would function as a park and ride system for commuters(Jo. co. is too rural for anything else). Then, it could link up to the bus system in Raleigh, but why spend all that money laying track, when buses could do the same job at a lower cost. Last time I checked the bus system around the Triangle was still being subsidized by the government, why would train be any different?

  • tomfoolery May 4, 2010

    I'm sure Meeker is all about new taxes that he can funnel into another one of his pet downtown projects.

  • dewnit4fun May 4, 2010

    THEY NEED TO FIX WHAT WE HAVE FOR ROADS . RAIL SYSTEM IS A WASTE , NEED TO MAINTAIN THAT TOO ...

  • DML May 4, 2010

    Sorry if you took offense to my comment, but Johnston County is still the "country" and not even close to needing a light rail system. They do however need improved roads and entries into Wake Co for commuters.

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