Local News

N.C. DOT Determined To Keep Trains Running Despite Amtrak Woes

Posted June 24, 2002 10:15 a.m. EDT

— Amtrak is running out of time and money. It has only enough cash to operate for a few more days.

Amtrak President David Gunn told Congress he will start shutting things down next week. While North Carolina is not as dependant on the rails for transportation as states in the Northeast, some wonder what will happen to two popular trains: the Piedmont and the Carolinian.

"Nobody knows exactly what will happen, but it is clear that Amtrak does not have enough money to make it through the end of the Federal fiscal year which ends on the last day of September," said David King, N.C. Transportation Deputy Secretary.

Officials in Washington may start shutting things down next week. With the clock ticking, some passengers in Cary figured now is the time for a train ride.

"This just happened to be the right time, timing-wise, I guess," passenger Rob Rousseau said.

"To be part of something that may not be with us that much longer," passenger Bill Rousseau said.

North Carolina has made a substantial investment in the Piedmont and the Carolinian.

"All those investments cannot pay off if there is no service. So the timing of this crisis could not be worse."

The state Department of Transportation said it is willing to do what it takes to keep the trains running.

"But the fact is, we will scramble and find a way if the crisis does hit beginning next week," King said.

In the meantime, some passengers are not taking any chances.

"Before it does fade into history, I would like to take a ride on the Amtrak train to take a long distance ride, just to say that I've done it," Bill Rousseau said.

King said if Amtrak does shut down, the state would try to find another operator to keep a passenger train running between Raleigh and Charlotte.

King said it should not cost the state any more than what it is paying Amtrak now.