Gov. Bev Perdue announced Tuesday that the North Carolina Department of Transportation reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway Co., Amtrak and N.C. Railroad Co. that allows construction to begin on the state’s rail modernization program, bringing more than 4,000 jobs to the state in the short run and boosting economic activity over the longer term.
"Rail is a critical component in North Carolina's economic development infrastructure," Perdue said. "Improving speed and efficiency for both passenger and freight services demonstrates our commitment to the future."
The agreement, approved by the Federal Railroad Administration, triggers the release of $461 million in 100 percent federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), which will pay for upgrades to tracks between Raleigh and Charlotte; bridges and crossing safety improvements; station expansions in four cities along that path; and construction of a maintenance facility in Charlotte.
The funding also will enable North Carolina to improve the speed and reliability of passenger service, add a fourth daily round trip between Charlotte and Raleigh in coming years and refurbish locomotives and railcars.
The state will proceed with 24 construction projects in 11 counties, ranging from adding double tracks between Charlotte and Greensboro to building a dozen new bridges to eliminate 30 at-grade highway crossings.
North Carolina was awarded $545 million in grant funds last year from the federal government. Norfolk Southern leases the line between Raleigh and Charlotte from the state-owned NC Railroad Co.
Under the agreement, North Carolina will work with Norfolk Southern to design and construct the rail improvements.
North Carolina already had received $59 million of the ARRA grants and put it to use adding a third daily round trip; purchasing equipment; upgrading stations in Cary, Burlington, High Point and Kannapolis; and planning for the next stage of construction.
In addition to increasing passenger rail capacity, the rail network improvements are designed to enhance safety, improve service reliability and preserve existing freight capacity.