Record-breaking grant announced for S-Line passenger rail route between Raleigh and Richmond

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North Carolina Construction News staff writer

A $1.1 billion federal grant was announced last week for the S-Line passenger rail route between Raleigh and Richmond.

“Passenger rail is booming in North Carolina as people look for safer, faster and more affordable transportation,” said Governor Roy Cooper. “We are investing in our growing passenger rail options and this federal grant is a game-changer that will make it easier than ever to travel to Richmond, Washington, DC and the Northeast.”

President Biden announced $8.2 billion in new funding last week, for 10 major passenger rail projects across the country, including the country’s first world-class high-speed rail projects.

Key projects include:

  • upgrades to Chicago Union Station
  • building a new high-speed rail system between California and Nevada, which will create a high-speed rail line through California’s Central Valley to link Los Angeles and San Francisco, supporting travel with speeds up to 220 mph
  • significant upgrades to frequently-traveled rail corridors in Virginia, North Carolina, and the District of Columbia
  • upgrading and expanding capacity at Chicago Union Station in Illinois, one of the nation’s busiest rail hubs

Announced projects will add new passenger rail service to new cities and repair aging rail infrastructure to increase train speeds, reduce delays, increase freight rail supply chains and reduce greenhouse emissions, and create good-paying union jobs. Additionally, electric high-speed rail trains will take millions of cars off the roads.

The Federal Railroad Administration grant to the N.C. Department of Transportation will be used to complete the initial phase of the Raleigh to Richmond Innovating Rail Program, which includes construction on the S-Line rail corridor from Raleigh to Wake Forest. It’s the largest grant the NCDOT has received to date.

“This project embodies our vision for a multimodal transportation system that works well for everyone,” said N.C. Transportation Secretary Joey Hopkins. “We envision residents in rural and urban communities will have access to a reliable regional rail service, with seamless and safe first and last mile connections to key destinations.”

The federal rail agency also awarded the NCDOT seven grants totaling $3.5 million as part of the Corridor Identification and Development program. These grants will help enhance the state’s existing passenger rail services between Charlotte and Raleigh, and expand passenger rail into other areas of North Carolina and other states.

The S-Line rail corridor is a freight line, owned by CSX, that connects Richmond and Raleigh on the federally-designated Southeast Corridor. Virginia has already acquired the line in their state from CSX, and North Carolina officials are working to finish a deal to purchase the corridor in North Carolina.

Funding will be used for final engineering design, right of way acquisition and construction costs for the section of the S-Line from Raleigh to Wake Forest. The money will also be used on new and upgraded track, replacement of at-grade crossings with highway/rail overpasses.

Officials plan to upgrade the existing freight rail line to accommodate passenger rail service while maintaining the existing freight rail service. Construction in Wake County will also include highway and rail bridges, including two safety projects in Cary that are also on the Southeast Corridor.

The NCDOT will also receive from FRA $3.5 million in Corridor Identification and Development program grants to begin planning passenger services on rail corridors between:

  • Winston-Salem and Raleigh
  • Charlotte and Washington D.C.
  • Wilmington and Raleigh
  • Fayetteville and Raleigh
  • Charlotte and Atlanta
  • Charlotte and Kings Mountain
  • Salisbury and Asheville

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