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North Carolina Intercity Rail Transit

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Posted

What is the future of rail in NC?

As most of us know, Bush is planning on shuting down Amtrak by the end of this fisical year. He plans on supportting Amtrak's high speed northeast corridor and leaving the rest of the system on a 50/50 deal with the states. NC is one of the few states that actually supports rail and is trying to improve it. The state has restored or rebuilt many historic stations threw out the state and even helps run some of the daily train service. The Piedmont provides daily service between Charlotte and Raleigh, the Carolinian provides daily service between Charlotte and New York City(via Richmond, DC). The state is also served by the Cresent(New York-Atlanta-New Orleans) and the Silver Star, Silver Meteor and the Palmetto(New York-Savannah-Miami). If Amtrak was to be shut down Gastonia, Southern Pines, Hamlet and Fayetteville would all lose rail service. All those stations(except Gastonia) have recently restored stations and it would be a shame to lose service to those stations. So in your opinion what do you thinck the state should do to improve rail service in NC if Amtrak is shut down. A third round trip for the Piedmont is already in the states plan along with high speed rail. Wilmington and Asheville service is already in the works also. Sorry for the long post but I was just wanted to say my opinion. Any comments?

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Posted

This is a favorite topic of mine.

I actually went and saw Norman Mineta (secretary of the DOT) speak at the train station in Charlotte - report w/pictures here(railfan.net). His message was typical, very political, didn't say much, and was full of smoke and mirrors and other misinformation. David King, the secretary of public transit at NCDOT, spoke as well. He stated that if the federal government wants to hand over more fiscal responsibility for operating trains to the states, and does so in an organized fashion in exchange for a matching program on capital investments, then North Carolina is ready and willing to do its part. He was quite clear that a chaotic move like immediate and brutal decapitation of Amtrak through bankrupcy is a non-starter, since it will take time to build up enough support among the states to make a new program work.

He mentioned that NC would prefer an 80/20 matching program, commonly found in highway and urban transit projects. But even with a 50/50 match, North Carolina would still come out ahead because we're spending so much money on capital improvements to the NCRR in the first place. With a 50/50 program, any money spent on the NCRR magically doubles. You can bet the DOT would like that. That's supposedly the purpose of the Bush plan: by encouraging investment in infrastructure at the expense of direct subsidy in the short term, you end up with a better, more efficient, and more reliable network in the long run.

If Amtrak does end up going away, I think there's no doubt that the Piedmont would continue to run. Virginia would probably step in and help out with the Carolinian, too - so I don't see that one going anywhere either. The Crescent and the Florida services are on much shakier ground, since assistance from Georgia and South Carolina is far from certain. Georgia aside, I don't think that a 50/50 match is enough to convince South Carolina to start investing in rail infrastructure. For tough cases like SC, something like 80/20 really might be necessary to convince them that it's worthwhile.

Anyway, when North Carolina (and the whole USA) realizes that passenger rail is just as important as roads and airports (presumably sometime before 2050) I predict that the state's passenger rail network might look something like this.

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Posted

Isnt that a shame! Southern Pines spent im presuming tax payer money to fix the train station and then train service will not resume anymore at the end of the year? That is sad.

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Posted

NCDOT covered 100% of the cost for the restoration of Southern Pines station.

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Posted

thanks! i did not know NCDOT did that! My Southern Pines speeding ticket in 2001 did not go to the train station then afterall :rofl:

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Posted (edited)

The SE NC Passenger Rail report recommends:

-->Implementing passenger train service from Wilmington to Raleigh via Fayetteville and Goldsboro in phases as funds become available.

Exploring implementation of a demonstration commuter service between Smithfield-Selma and Raleigh (mentions EASTRANS).

link

Edited by ChiefJoJo

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Posted

sencrail.gif

Couple of comments:

In the previous report (from 2001) they eliminated Wilmington-Charlotte service because it didn't provide a very good connection to the northeast. This time around, they also considered Wilmington-Rocky Mount service, providing a superb connection to the Northeast, but no connection to the rest of North Carolina. That option was abandoned due to low ridership numbers.

So, the choice was made to run the trains between Wilmington and Raleigh. While some day there may be trains between Wilmington and Charlotte or Rocky Mount, that's not going to happen just yet.

But, obviously, they still haven't made a choice about the Fayetteville/Goldsboro issue. While it's nice to include everybody and it's also nice to keep your options open to a certain point, by not at picking one to start out with, they may be holding back progress. If you try to implement them both at the same time, it will cost twice as much or take twice as long before the first train can roll down the line.

The report also recommends implementing the service in phases, much like the Carolinian and Piedmont were starting in 1990. The first phase would involve block signals and 60mph trains. Costs would be about $70 million through Fayetteville, for a 3:52 trip time, or $120 million through Goldsboro for 3:12. Completion of the improvements would mean CTC signals and 80mph trains, at $130 million and 3:22 for Fayetteville, or $190 million and 2:30 for Goldsboro.

The Goldsboro route yields higher ridership projections (74,100 vs 58,900) because it is faster, offers a better connection to the northeast, and brings trains to an larger unserved portion of the state, but it's significantly more expensive due to restoring the abandoned right-of-way between Wallace and Castle Hayne. It's very attractive with its 2:30 downtown-to-downtown travel time (competitive with I-40) but the fact that it would take $120 million just to get service off the ground, and $190 million to finish the job makes me think that the Fayetteville line will happen first.

Honestly, I'd rather see the Fayetteville service run on the Norfolk Southern line through Fuquay-Varina and Lillington, but that's a lot curvier and would probably be just as expensive as the Goldsboro route to upgrade for passenger trains. At the very least, I'd like to see another stop somewhere between Selma and Fayetteville; Dunn perhaps.

So, in conclusion, we'll now probably see SENC passenger rail languish for a while, just like the WNC line, until some sort of federal support can be lined up, whether it's a specific earmark or an official matching grant program like FTA New Starts or whatever. At least NC won't shy away from committing to a subsidy for the operating deficit.

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Posted

The report recommends:

-->Implementing passenger train service from Wilmington to Raleigh via Fayetteville and Goldsboro in phases as funds become available.

Exploring implementation of a demonstration commuter service between Smithfield-Selma and Raleigh (mentions EASTRANS).

link

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

I'm impressed to see Eastrans still mentioned by name. It was a very, very difficult project to get up and running...and the political ramifications were deadly for some. If Eastrans ever gets running I hope that its founder gets some credit.

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Posted

Nice plans, but is is unfortunate that Western NC continues to get short changed by in these kind of plans.

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Posted

Nice plans, but is is unfortunate that Western NC continues to get short changed by in these kind of plans.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Remarkable, isn't it? Back in the early 2000's I believe that a study to operate rail between Greensboro and Asheville scored higher (greater ridership, lower costs) than the SE (Raleigh-Wilmington) proposal...

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Posted

are you guys sure western nc is being short-changed? I haven't read the docs yet on these links, but i think it is just a matter of the South-Eastern NC passenger rail study was simply a separate study from the western NC study.

here is the site for the western NC study:

http://www.bytrain.org/future/western.html

Just from the summary it appears that it was "postponed" to 2008, but that isn't that far away. Am i missing a line saying that passenger rail to asheville was abandonned?

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Posted

There is no indication of WNC service being abandoned, it is simply waiting for more money. The studies have been done and there would be a decent number of passengers. The towns are "on board" with the idea, and I believe NCDOT has supported the restoration of some of the historic stations along the way, and they at least have some plans for the remainder. I hope the towns chip in what they can to make this a reality.

PART has worked the WNC study findings into their own rail plans--trying to find ways to link Winston-Salem with the WNC rail line. I can't find any mention of Winston-Salem's stand on this issue--whether they are behind PART's efforts or not, but chances are they at least support the endeavor (I mean, who wouldn't?). I hope W-S's leadership is wise enough to invest in the proposed extention. Such a connection would also link Winston-Salem to Charlotte indirectly, and also incorporate Lexington into the state's passenger rail system.

Once more of these rails become upgraded for passenger train use, it becomes much easier to implement commuter rail too.

I won't be a pessimist, I choose to be an optimist... However I will not become so optimistic that I set myself up for disappointment.

If this new SENC proposal ends up spawning part of the Eastrans commuter rail system, we'll have to make a big stink that its originator hangs out here at UP ;)

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Posted (edited)

W-S is steady fighting for passenger rail which seems very feasible since NW NC continues to get left out. this was released last week.

excerpts from journalnow.com

State legislators are licking their chops over talk that their counterparts in Congress might increase money for rail projects, including possible improvements to a high-speed passenger line through Winston-Salem.

No such line is on the immediate horizon, but state legislators said yesterday that they are increasingly hopeful about getting more federal money for such projects. They passed a bill yesterday requiring the N.C. Department of Transportation to prepare for a possible influx by making sure the state has enough money to match federal grants.

Six passenger trains stop in North Carolina every day, with stops that include Greensboro and High Point. The trains are part of the nationwide Amtrak network, but people in Winston-Salem have to take a car or bus to get to them.

There are tracks that go through Winston-Salem, but they are privately owned.

"We are entitled to first-class service, and not some jitney bouncing us over to High Point or Greensboro," Horton said.

Nesbitt is an advocate for passenger rail service from Asheville to Salisbury, an idea that has floated around for several years.

He said that interest in rail service is increasing, among commuters, tourists and other travelers.

Edited by twincity

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Posted

if PART gets funded for a regional rail connection to high point and/or greensboro, why would w-s care if the wnc passenger rail goes through its city or the planned salisbury route? Is it just a matter of sharing the funding for corridor improvements?

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Posted

perhaps they could pursue yet another corridor:

Greensboro - Winston-Salem - Elkin - Wilkesboro - Boone?

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Posted

perhaps they could pursue yet another corridor:

Greensboro - Winston-Salem - Elkin - Wilkesboro - Boone?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

Going to Wilkesboro is very possible, as that corridor is owned an operated by an active shortline railroad. However, I think that Greensboro->Winston-Salem->Clemmons, as proposed by PART, and then further to Mocksville and Statesville, would happen sooner.

A link from the triad to Boone is never going to happen, period. The problem being, there is no existing railroad through there and there never was. The only railroad that ever went to Boone, the ET&WNC (affectionately known as the Tweetsie) was a narrow-gauge line out of Johnson City. This went out of service years ago, with a very short segment on the east end preserved as a theme park, and the segment from Johnson City to Elizabethton getting switched to standard gauge and remaining in service as a freight railroad.

The cost of building a new railroad through the mountains is just too astronomical. Firstly, nobody builds new railroads anymore. And in this case especially, think about how many tunnels they'd have to bore to get decent travel times. We're talking somewhere over $1 billion here. Nope, no way, not ever. Unfortunately.

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Posted

Going to Wilkesboro is very possible, as that corridor is owned an operated by an active shortline railroad. However, I think that Greensboro->Winston-Salem->Clemmons, as proposed by PART, and then further to Mocksville and Statesville, would happen sooner.

.......

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

That would be very interesting as it might be possible to link it to the Charlotte Transit System if the North commuter rail line was (if built) extended from Mooresville to Statesville. Well one can wish. :lol:

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Posted

That would be very interesting as it might be possible to link it to the Charlotte Transit System if the North commuter rail line was (if built) extended from Mooresville to Statesville.

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Posted

Wow, great map. Thanks for sharing it here. But as you said above its too bad the Boone, Blowing Rock, W. Jefferson, Banner Elk area of the mountains is not served.

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Posted

Wow, great map.

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Posted

Did they ever get the bi-directional signals project done? If I'm not mistaken, at the moment one track (the Norfolk Southern track) is signalled in the eastbound direction, and the other (CSX) in the westbound direction. In the unsignalled direction, trains operate by train order and are limited to 50mph. The bi-directional signal project was supposed to install signals on both tracks so trains can go 80mph in either direction on either track. I used to live right by these tracks and I watched all work going on, but I never saw any improvements to the signals.

This was the final long, major speed restriction on the NCRR between Raleigh and Charlotte. Pretty much everything else is due to curves, which force the engineer to slow the train down. The three ways to solve that are 1. realignments, which are expensive 2. greater superelevation (banking) which the freight RR won't allow, or 3. brand new tilting trains!!, which would be extremely cool.

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Posted

Don't they have a big sign posted at the railroad crossing at Harrison near Chatham in Cary warning of the speed increase? I've driven by it every few days but I sort of subconsiously blocked it out once I realized it wasn't warning of road construction or lane closures hehe.

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Posted

It's not clear from the press release if the bidirectional signals were completed along with the track upgrade. The project package seems to suggest both were part of the same project.

However, the description of the project suggests the track upgrade helps with speed, while the signals help with track capacity. I'll see what else I can find out.

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Posted

Did they ever get the bi-directional signals project done? If I'm not mistaken, at the moment one track (the Norfolk Southern track) is signalled in the eastbound direction, and the other (CSX) in the westbound direction. In the unsignalled direction, trains operate by train order and are limited to 50mph. The bi-directional signal project was supposed to install signals on both tracks so trains can go 80mph in either direction on either track. I used to live right by these tracks and I watched all work going on, but I never saw any improvements to the signals.

Update from NCDOT Rail staff- the bidirectional signaling has not yet been implemented. NS and CSX still working out some issues at Fetner to make it happen.

This phase of the Raleigh-Cary project will save about 1 minute of travel time. The signals, when implemented, will save another minute.

Final note from staff, perhaps the most exciting- the cumulative effect of several Raleigh-Charlotte project will knock 5 minutes off the RGH-CLT rail travel time next month. This takes corridor travel time from 3:15 to 3:10. Woo-hoo! It's my belief that when the time gets to 3:05, we could see a third daily roundtrip on the Piedmont.

The current schedule is:

RAL CLT

7:15 10:30

CLT RAL

17:30 20:45

Enivsion this schedule:

RAL CLT

7:00 10:05

CLT RAL

10:35 13:40

RAL CLT

14:10 17:15

CLT RAL

17:45 20:50

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