The N.C. Department of Transportation is investing in modernizing the state’s railways through a series of railroad and highway construction projects and enhancements known as the Piedmont Improvement Program, or PIP. The outcome will make train travel safer and more reliable, enhance opportunity for greater job growth and commercial development and better connect the economic regions of Raleigh and Charlotte and the cities, towns and communities in between.
These projects are largely funded through federal stimulus money from through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The Federal Railroad Administration awarded the state a $545 million grant from that program in 2010. A cooperative agreement with the agency specifies that $520 million of the money goes directly to PIP. The rest of the money is helping to improve reliability of existing freight and passenger service from Raleigh to Virginia.
Project Overview and Purpose
- The Piedmont Improvement Program includes adding two Amtrak trips between Raleigh and Charlotte--making a total of five trips daily, building new bridges for trains to cross over or under driving traffic and closing some railroad crossings. Additionally, roads will be constructed and parallel railroad tracks created along parts of the corridor that moves freight and passengers through the heart of the state.
- “Improving rail lines is a vital part enhancing our state’s transportation network to better connect people to jobs, health care, education, and recreation centers,” Said Transportation Secretary Tony Tata. “Through this federal stimulus grant we are completing projects that will increase economic competitiveness, freight and multimodal connectivity and provide greater opportunities for our citizens.”
- Ridership on state-sponsored trains is already seeing an increase. The Piedmont train service, which runs from Raleigh to Charlotte, was number one in the nation in growth within the Amtrak system for 2012. A second state-sponsored train, the Carolinian, also is posting increased ridership and revenue numbers for the state.
- North Carolina has nearly 3,300 miles of track used by passenger and freight trains alike. PIP also will benefit Class One railroads, such as Norfolk Southern and CSX Transportation.
- “Since all trains use all tracks, these improvements will ensure more opportunities for businesses and our freight partners,” said NCDOT Rail Division Director Paul Worley. “Safety and efficiency on the tracks allow their trains to get more goods to communities in our state. That brings about job growth and economic development, something everyone wants.”
- In order to complete the work, NCDOT is partnering with the North Carolina Railroad Company, which is providing some funding, and Norfolk Southern Railway and CSX Transportation, which are providing much of the track work.
Subject to Federal Railroad Administration cooperative agreements, the Piedmont Improvement Program will specifically:
- Add 13 new bridges that will carry roadway over or under railroad tracks to separate traffic from trains and improve safety for motorists.
- Add 32 miles of parallel, or second track, and passing sidings, to help freight and passenger trains move in a more timely manner.
- Add 12 miles of new highway construction.
- Close 23 public railroad crossings to eliminate the potential for train and vehicle collisions.
- Add two daily Amtrak trips between Raleigh and Charlotte with seven stops in between.
- Renovate train stations in Cary, High Point, Burlington and Kannapolis.
- Refurbish and add passenger rail cars to the fleet.
PIP projects at Hopson Road in Durham and Klumac Road in Salisbury are among the first underway. Additional projects are slated to begin at some point in 2013. Those include projects for which the construction contracts have been awarded, are being let or are in some phase of design. (link to projects page)
At least five more projects will begin in 2014 and 2015. The Piedmont Improvement Program will be complete in early 2017.