North Carolina and Virginia get federal grant for high-speed train from Raleigh to Richmond


A federal grant announced Thursday, June 2, 2022 will allow North Carolina and Virginia to begin engineering and design work for a high-speed passenger train from Raleigh’s Union Station, seen here, at the Main Street station in downtown Richmond.

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The federal government is investing more money to help establish high-speed passenger rail service between Raleigh and Richmond, Virginia.

The Federal Railroad Administration announced Thursday that it is granting $57.9 million to North Carolina and Virginia to begin engineering work needed to revive and rebuild the so-called S-line, a rail corridor between Raleigh and Petersburg.

Both states have been planning high-speed passenger trains between their capitals since 1992 and chose the S line as the best route years ago.

Now the effort is gaining momentum. The federal grant announced Thursday is the most significant step yet, said U.S. Representative David Price of Chapel Hill, who heads the House Transportation Appropriations Subcommittee.

“This is a project of regional importance, and the cooperation we have seen demonstrates that both states fully understand this reality,” Price said. “The investments we have made and continue to make are critical to unlocking the full potential of a Southeast Corridor for passenger rail travel from Washington, DC, to Charlotte and ultimately to Atlanta.

Price was speaking in a tent in a parking lot in downtown Wake Forest, across from where the town’s depot once stood. Among those who joined were Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones, Governor Roy Cooper, Amit Bose, head of the Federal Railroad Administration, and Mitch Landrieu, the former mayor of New Orleans chosen by the president. Joe Biden to implement the $1 trillion infrastructure package that Congress passed last time. to fall.

All spoke of intercity passenger rail as an important part of moving people in the future.

“We want to make sure North Carolina residents can get where they need to go faster, cleaner and more reliably,” Cooper said. “Even though it’s in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Passenger trains haven’t stopped at Wake Forest for over 40 years, and the depot is long gone. The plan now is that passenger trains capable of going 110 mph will start stopping here between Raleigh and Richmond within the next three to seven years, said Jason Orthner, rail division director for the Department of Transportation’s Department of Transportation. North Carolina.

The depot could also one day be used for commuter rail service between downtown Raleigh and Wake Forest, Orthner said.

Both states purchase Line S from the CSX freight railroad. Virginia has already signed an agreement to acquire 75 miles of rail corridor between Petersburg and Ridgeway, North Carolina, just south of the state line. The tracks in this part of the corridor were removed in the 1980s.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is set to sign an agreement with CSX to purchase the rest of the rail line between Ridgeway and Raleigh. NCDOT will pay for the line using a $47.5 million federal grant it received two years ago.

There are still tracks on this section of the S line that CSX uses to serve freight customers with one to two trains per day. This freight service will co-exist with passenger trains in the future, whether single-track or dual-track, Orthner said.

A project with bipartisan support

To prepare for high-speed passenger trains, the NCDOT is working to eliminate level crossings on the CSX line in Wake County by building bridges, including at Durant, East Millbrook and New Hope Church roads in Raleigh and Rogers Road in Wake Forest.

The Line S grant is the largest of 46 awarded by the federal government on Thursday for rail projects nationwide, totaling $368 million. The program has been around for years but was boosted by the infrastructure bill passed by Congress last fall.

“It’s really a great example of what the bipartisan infrastructure law is designed to do,” said Landrieu, the president’s infrastructure coordinator. “It’s about creating a rapid train that makes it faster, safer, smarter and gets people from where they are to where they want to go. We’ve wanted this for a very long time. It’s a fantastic down payment.

The high-speed rail project, now known to R2R, has enjoyed bipartisan support in North Carolina, at least in Congress. While Price, a Democrat, helped make the announcement on Thursday, U.S. Senator Thom Tillis, a Republican, was the first to disclose the grant earlier this week.

“This grant is a huge win for Wake County and the entire state of North Carolina,” Tillis said in a statement. “The Raleigh-Richmond Corridor Project will improve mobility opportunities for the entire region, including underserved communities, and provide economic opportunities for generations to come. I am proud to have championed this project and look forward to the progress it will bring to both North Carolina and Virginia.

Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu speaks with Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones June 2, 2022. Landrieu is overseeing the implementation of the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed by the Congress last fall and was in Wake Forest to announce a $57.9 million federal grant for engineering work needed to establish high-speed passenger rail service between Raleigh and Richmond, Va., which would include a stop in Wake Forest. Richard Stradling [email protected]

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Richard Stradling covers transport for The News & Observer. Planes, trains and automobiles, as well as ferries, bicycles, scooters and simply on foot. Also, hospitals during the coronavirus outbreak. He was a journalist or editor for 34 years, the last 22 of them at the N&O. 919-829-4739, [email protected]

Jose P. Rogers