Local News

Norfolk Southern balks at proposed high-speed rail route

Posted September 13, 2010 1:17 p.m. EDT
Updated September 13, 2010 1:42 p.m. EDT

— Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has joined the chorus of opposition to a proposed route through Raleigh for a high-speed passenger rail system.

The route through the capital city is part of a $2 billion plan to build a rail line from Raleigh to Richmond, Va. It 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.

Norfolk Southern sent a letter last Thursday to the Rail Division of the state Department of Transportation expressing opposition to the idea. Friday was the final day for public comment before DOT officials select the route for the rail line.

"The adverse impacts on (Norfolk Southern) and its customers, as well as on the neighborhood abutting (the corridor), are significant and adverse, far more so that those of the other two alternatives. In most cases, the adverse effects would not be able to be mitigated," the company wrote.

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

Raleigh City Council members last week decided not to endorse any of the routes. Instead, they voted to submit a list of 12 items for consideration to the DOT, including more study of a "hybrid alternative" that would avoid street closures and minimize the effects on businesses and homes.

Norfolk Southern also said it has no plans to support high-speed rail on its line through Raleigh, which "undermines the viability of the entire project" should the DOT select that option.

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.