The state Department of Transportation will close the Church Street intersection at N.C. 54 near Research Triangle Park on June 8 as part of an ongoing project to make trains faster and safer.
The curve in the N.C. Railroad track that parallels N.C. 54 is being flattened and a passing siding track is being added, to allow faster train speeds. The $10.9 million project also will lift the tracks onto a bridge over Hopson Road, just north of Church Street, and close the Church Street rail crossing.
The closing of both rail crossings also takes effect June 8, when the trains will start using the new tracks on the bridge over Hopson.
An Amtrak train hit a car at the Hopson crossing in 1992, killing a Morrisville woman and two of her sons. NCDOT officials say the crash prompted the department to establish its Sealed Corridor Program in partnership with freight railroads to work to eliminate or improve rail crossings between Raleigh and Charlotte.
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The crossing and intersection closing on Church Street will affect an average 5,800 cars and trucks each day, many of them driven by workers at a nearby office park and residents of several neighborhoods that will need to find a new route to N.C. 54.
DOT has created a new outlet from Church Street to N.C. 54 by extending Keystone Park Drive north from Park Knoll Drive to Hopson Road.
“We realize there will be an impact,” said Michelle Gaddy, a DOT engineer overseeing the project. “However, we feel like the safety consideration of closing the at-grade crossings outweighs that.”
When the project is finished in 2016, with its straightened railroad curve, the speed limit for passenger trains there will be raised from 55 mph to 79 mph, reducing Amtrak trip times by about a minute. RTP commuters will no longer have to stop for freight and passenger trains blocking Hopson Road at rush hour.