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Study recommends commuter rail from Durham to Johnston County

Posted May 11, 2010

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— The best option for a commuter rail system in central North Carolina would be to run trains between Durham and the Johnston County town of Wilson's Mills, according to a study released Tuesday.

The North Carolina Railroad Co., which owns a 317-mile rail corridor that stretches from Charlotte to Morehead City, studied the potential interest among commuters for a rail line stretching from Greensboro to Goldsboro and determined the Triangle was the most feasible location for commuter rail.

Commuter rail map, Goldsboro to Greensboro Commuter rail would attract Triangle riders

A consultant hired by the NCRR estimates that a 50-mile commuter rail line from Durham to Wilson's Mills, which would include Research Triangle Park, Cary, Raleigh and Clayton, would attract 2 million riders by 2022.

"The study shows the ridership demand will be there," North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said.

The study, which also said commuter rail could succeed between Burlington and Greensboro, found the success of a commuter rail system depends largely on the quality of area bus service for train riders to get where they need to go.

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 highway system is built out. (Commuter rail) is very forward-thinking," NCRR President Scott Saylor said.

The cost for the project was estimated at $5 million to $7 million per mile for trains and tracks, which would mean a 50-mile commuter rail line would cost $250 million to $350 million.

Conti called that price tag a modest investment compared to building more highways for Triangle commuters.

"If you're looking to build a mile of interstate highway, you're looking anywhere from $30 million to $50 million a mile. So, building a rail operation at $5 million a mile is a pretty good deal," he said.

Amy Spence, who drives from Johnston County to her job in Raleigh every day, said the projected $2 to $3 cost to ride a commuter rail line also would be a good deal.

"That would certainly save me a lot of money" on gas and wear and tear on her car, Spence said.

Then, there's the aggravation of rush-hour traffic on Interstate 40.

"It's never a smooth ride in the afternoon. There's usually back-ups," Spence said. "No more road rage (with a train). That would be nice."

The study didn't address how to finance construction of the rail line, but officials said funding would likely come from the DOT, federal dollars and local governments. Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker has floated the idea of a half-cent local sales tax to generate money for transit.

Supporters say it would take at least five years to get a commuter rail line in place in the Triangle.

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  • jet2rdu May 13, 2010

    There is one sure thing about Light Rail. It is that the costs of new Light Rail construction projects appear to always exceed the initial estimates made, including those at the earliest stages and a lot more than the “pre-sale” costs to the public by proponents of light rail. The cost to the taxpayers, most of whom will never use this limited route of service, is Bonds and more Bonds or simply translated higher taxes.

    Operating , maintenance, equipment, safety and signal, security, parking, right of way, fuel, electricity and communications costs will increase each year always over budgetary estimates too.

  • Mugu May 12, 2010

    Make the train stop in Raleigh, not Durham, to keep the criminals out of Wake County.

  • enigma1469 May 12, 2010

    Rail does not work with out tax money. The story should say "Study recomends tax increases"

  • wcumom May 12, 2010

    It would also create a haven for crime just as in other areas of this Country.Once you are on the train,you are vulnerable.

  • Dixiecrat May 12, 2010

    (Cont'd) And you would have to have a good road transit system to get you from the station to your destination if it isn't within walking distance. Cha-ching! It wouldn't be cheap, but if it was done properly it would be something that people might actually use and could be self-sustaining.

  • Dixiecrat May 12, 2010

    I've had some experience with these kind of studies in a past career life. Yes, the study "results" from an independent consultant give you the justification you need to proceed further with your plans. I'm not sayin' anything...I'm just sayin'.

    They've studied, re-studied, and re-re-studied light rail for this area for twenty years now and we have nothing to show for it. The powers that be want to do this the cheap way instead of the right way. The intent is to use the NCRR corridor that runs through Durham, RTP, Raleigh, and yes Wilson's Mills. Problem is you have a Class I freight carrier operating on it, and they don't want to mix their trains with commuter trains. Safety wise, I don't blame them.

    To truly get this to work the light rail will have to operate on its own corridor, and to keep it safe and get higher speeds you're going to have to build bridges over all road and other railroad crossings. And you would have to have a good road transit system to get you from

  • JennyN May 12, 2010

    This would be great... create new jobs for people out of work right now and save money for commuters working in RTP. All for it! I really hope they get to work on this!

  • NCPictures May 12, 2010

    "The study didn't address how to finance construction of the rail line,"

    That says it all. In other words, they have no idea how to pay for it, and if it will be able to support itself. But hey, it would look COOL to have a Choo Choo.

  • Bendal1 May 12, 2010

    Let's see, NCRR hires a consultant to see if the area needs a commuter rail line, and SURPRISE! the study says exactly that! What did anyone expect? This is yet another ploy by politicians to try and get commuter rail started here in the Triangle, so they can puff out their chests and say "why yes, we're a big deal, we've got COMMUTER RAIL now!".

    I mean really, Wilson's Mill to Durham? And it could be built for "only" $7 million/mile? What about the stations? Just one track? So the trains only run in one direction at a time? Don't be fooled, people; this is a "foot in the door" study to get things going, and several hundred million dollars later, we'll be looking around saying "hey, where's that commuter rail you promised?".

  • Sir Narron OF Johnston May 12, 2010

    i live in wilson's mills and drive to RTP everyday ..and have for almost 9 years ..this would be great, i'm totally for it ..
    watch out Triangle ...JoCo is getting on the train. Better get ready for the smell of bbq in the morning ...lol

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