Federal grant could help speed rail service north of Triangle

Posted September 23, 2020 5:58 p.m. EDT
Updated September 23, 2020 7:28 p.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Department of Transportation has won a $47.5 million federal grant to buy and repair an old railway line north of the Triangle that will help speed passenger and freight train service, officials said Wednesday.

The grant will help reopen the S-line, which used to be a major railway route through north central North Carolina. CSX owns the corridor, which has been closed since 1987.

The route has fallen into disrepair over the years, forcing rail traffic to shift to the A-line closer to the coast, which forced trains to head east out of Raleigh instead of north and added more than an hour to travel time for passengers and freight.

The U.S. Department of Transportation grant will allow the state to buy the corridor between Raleigh and Ridgeway, near the Virginia border, and upgrade the tracks so higher-speed trains can eventually serve Wake Forest, Henderson and points north.

"This acquisition is the first step to providing four new intercity passenger rail service operations between Richmond [Va.] and Raleigh, so it’s incredibly important," U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

Another $13.1 million grant will pay to repair and upgrade more than 100 miles of track, including repairing bridges and constructing new sidings, on the Aberdeen, Carolina & Western Railway between Charlotte, Star and Aberdeen.

The two projects will serve several economic development sites as well, officials said.

"This project also allows for improved freight capacity as well, and that’s a very important part of our transportation system – not only to carry passengers but also freight," Chao said.

"A modernized freight and passenger rail network will connect the Southeast while spurring new economic development opportunities," state Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette said in a statement.

The upgrades will take several years, but a spokeswoman for NCDOT said the agency hopes to open segments as they're completed.

In 1992, federal transportation officials named the Southeast Corridor between Washington, D.C., and Jacksonville, Fla., as one of the first five federally designated higher-speed rail corridors in the country.

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