Local News

Raleigh declines to pick route for high-speed rail

Posted September 7, 2010 6:35 a.m. EDT
Updated September 7, 2010 6:37 p.m. EDT

— City Council members on Tuesday decided not to select a preferred route for a high-speed passenger rail system through Raleigh.

Council members said they want to analyze all alternatives more, and they voted to submit a list of 12 items for consideration to the state Department of Transportation, which will make the final decision on the rail line's location.

The route through the capital city is part of a $2 billion plan to build a rail line from Raleigh to Richmond, Va. That would be part of a Southeast rail corridor that would eventually connect Charlotte to Washington, D.C., with trains traveling at top speeds of 110 mph.

Raleigh city planners recently endorsed a special task force's proposal for the route to follow the Norfolk Southern tracks, north from Jones Street along the western side of Capital Boulevard.

The plan would keep northbound and southbound lanes of West and Harrington streets in downtown open to vehicle traffic and avoid the need for a bridge near the Glenwood South area.

Residents of the Five Points neighborhood oppose the plan, saying the route would go through their neighborhood and adversely affect businesses and homes.As many as 12 freight trains and eight passenger trains could go through the area each day, they said.

Two other routes under consideration would follow CSX tracks on the east side of Capital Boulevard.

Some people support a compromise, a so-called "hybrid alternative" that would avoid street closures and minimize the effects on businesses and homes.

The 12 items for consideration the council passed along to DOT include more study of the hybrid plan, building pedestrian overpasses and mitigating the impact of the rail line on nearby neighborhoods.

Five Points residents said they see the City Council's move as a partial victory.

"I'm encouraged from where this all started," resident Rick Baker said. "I felt like (the Norfolk Southern route) was a shoo-in by the city, so I'm encouraged the process worked. They listened to the residents, had a public hearing and started looking at other alternatives out there other than the three proposed.

"We're happy other alternatives will be considered."

The state was awarded $545 million in federal stimulus funds to support the high-speed rail system.

Plans are to complete the track from Charlotte to Raleigh within three years. The time frame for completion of the rail from Charlotte to Richmond is projected to be 2017 or later.