N.C. seeks grants for fast trains

August 5, 2010 

The state Department of Transportation is applying for $290 million in federal railroad money for projects that include new passenger stations in Hillsborough andLexington and a bridge to separate cars from trains at the rail crossing on Blue Ridge Road near the State Fairgrounds in Raleigh.

The request is for North Carolina's share of $2.3 billion in high-speed rail grants to be awarded nationwide in September. The state recently began spending some of the $545 million it won earlier this year as part of $8 billion in federal stimulus funds for fast trains.

"We could get all of this $290 million, or some of it, or we could get none of it," Pat Simmons, the state DOT rail director, said Wednesday.

Here are the new rail projects included in the $290 million request:

Raleigh: Blue Ridge Road grade separation and local closure of Powell Drive (and possibly Beryl / Royal Road) - $55 million.

Lexington: new town station and platform - $15 million.

Charlotte: Gateway Station construction - $38 million.

Charlotte: Gateway Station track improvements including new bridges and modification to existing bridges at 4th, 5th, 6th and Trade streets and Morehead Avenue - $53 million.

Charlotte: Northend grade to separate 36th St. - $30 million.

Charlotte: Northend Sugar Creek Road grade separation and Craighead Road closure - $42 million.

Charlotte: Southend improvements, Wye at Charlotte Junction and Norfolk Southern mainline improvements, including third mainline - $27 million.

Program management - $15 million.

Eighteen freight and Amtrak trains roll through the Blue Ridge Road rail crossing in West Raleigh each day.

The proposed bridge would also serve additional trains planned as the state steps up passenger service between Raleigh and Charlotte and as Triangle Transit develops proposals for rush-hour commuter trains and electric light-rail trains.

"It's the most complicated railroad-highway intersection that we have in the state," Simmons told the state Board of Transportation. Planners have not decided whether to run Blue Ridge Road over the tracks or under them.

The DOT is also applying for $7 million in separate federal rail grants to upgrade seven short-line freight railroads and make bridge and track improvements in 11 mostly rural counties.

Staff writer Bruce Siceloff

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