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State to aid commuter rail in the Triad

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State could aid rail project

(includes a 2nd multi-modal center for Greensboro near the airport)


By Paul Muschick Staff Writer

News & Record

The Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation could receive $1.3 million toward starting a commuter rail system and building park-and-ride lots, according to a tentative list of transit projects from Gov. Mike Easley's N.C. Moving Ahead program.

High Point's request for $3 million to build a permanent bus terminal at the International Home Furnishings Market is not included on the list that was reviewed Monday by a committee of state lawmakers in Raleigh.

The list could change during further discussions, said David King, deputy secretary for transit for the N.C. Department of Transportation. He said some of the projects could be approved next month and others approved by May.

Easley's Moving Ahead program, approved by lawmakers earlier this year, diverts $700 million that had been set aside to build beltways around cities, widen two-lane roads and pave rural dirt roads.

Instead, most of the money will go to about 900 road projects such as adding turn lanes and widening shoulders, which are minor and inexpensive repairs that can greatly improve traffic flow and safety. About $20 million worth of roadwork is planned in Guilford County, with about $10 million in Alamance, Davidson, Randolph and Rockingham counties.

The program also set aside $70 million for public transportation projects.

The draft list of those projects that was discussed Monday includes $500,000 for the Piedmont Authority for Regional Transportation to use toward planning for a commuter rail system, starting with a route between N.C. A&T in Greensboro and Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem that could open in about a decade.

PART could receive $407,000 for a bus and train station along West Market Street in Greensboro near Piedmont International Airport, as well as $416,000 to build park-and-ride lots for its current bus service connecting Greensboro, High Point, Winston-Salem and Kernersville.

Monday's list also includes $4 million to prepare railroad tracks between Greensboro and Charlotte for future high-speed trains connecting Charlotte and Washington.

The International Home Furnishings Market Authority, which organizes the semiannual furniture markets in High Point, had asked for $3 million to build a permanent bus terminal to use during the events.

A temporary terminal is now set up by closing Commerce Street in the showroom district. Market organizers would like to make the terminal more permanent. They have even discussed covering Commerce Street with a canopy or enclosure all the way from Hamilton Street to Elm Street, to shield marketgoers from bad weather.

The state supports the request, said Miriam Perry, the DOT's public transportation director, but she said the market authority was not ready to move ahead quickly enough to qualify for the N.C. Moving Ahead program, which requires work to be done in the next two years.

She said the state will be ready to pay for the project when the market authority is ready.

Market authority President Judy Mendenhall said the authority will continue to work with the state to build the terminal.

"I don't see this as any kind of slap in the face to the market," Mendenhall said

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Yes this is great news. The plan will allow Greensboro to have two train stations. The main hub downtown and a satelite hub at the airport.

Eventually high speed rail lines will become the future economic engine for cities like interstate highways are now. Cities that are on these lines will prosper the most.

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