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Stimulus funding for high-speed rails could be coming to N.C.

Posted January 27, 2010 4:14 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2010 7:01 p.m. EST

— North Carolina will learn Thursday how much stimulus money, if any, it will get to develop high-speed rail corridors in the state.

President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden plan to announce $8 billion in grants for 13 major corridors during a town hall meeting in Tampa, Fla.

The funding is part of the $787 billion recovery act. Besides the 13 corridors receiving grants, several smaller awards will be made for improvements to existing rail lines. Overall, 31 states will receive funds.

North Carolina has applied for more than $5 billion to improve rail service from Charlotte to Washington, D.C.

State Department of Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said Wednesday he expects at least $100 million to cover a rail from Charlotte to Raleigh.

"We're very confident we'll get at least that much," he said.

Government sources say North Carolina could receive at least $500 million.

"We anticipate over seven years that approximately 60,000 jobs could be created in this effort," Conti said. "These dollars will be putting people in North Carolina to work."

The route is part of a larger one that already connects Boston to Washington. It would eventually run through Richmond, Va., Raleigh and Charlotte and continue through Georgia, with stops in Atlanta, Macon, Columbia and Savannah, before ending in Jacksonville, Fla.

"Building the corridor from Raleigh to Richmond is more is the more significant investment, so depending on what we get, we'd start that work," Conti said.

A representative from Obama's administration is expected to be in Durham Thursday to discuss the economic impact on the state, the White House said.

"We think that represents a strong commitment from this administration to work on this corridor in North Carolina," Conti said.

Announcing the funding last year, Obama said the United States cannot afford not to invest in high-speed rail travel, saying it will relieve congestion, help clean the air and save on energy.

"This is not some fanciful, pie-in-the-sky vision of the future. It's happening now. The problem is, it's happening elsewhere," Obama said, referring to high-speed travel in countries like China, Japan, France and Spain.

The U.S. Federal Railroad Administration says the term "high-speed rail" applies to trains traveling more than 90 mph.

Top speeds from Charlotte to Raleigh could reach 110 mph, averaging 85 mph to 87 mph, with an estimated travel time of two to three hours.

Current passenger trains average between 46 mph to 48 mph.