Building a rail future in North Carolina
By Paul C. Worley, rail division director of the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
In North Carolina, the Department of Transportation is investing in better rail service for our citizens and for visitors to our state. We are making train travel safer, faster, and enabling people to connect more easily to more destinations along the state-owned North Carolina Railroad Company corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte, the largest area of population in our state.
We support and promote rail improvements because we believe that it makes sense for safety, economic development and job creation in our state. North Carolina’s passenger train services play a vital role in spurring job growth and connecting citizens and visitors to opportunities and important services.
The state-supported Piedmont trains from Raleigh to Charlotte and Carolinian trains from Charlotte to Washington, D.C., continue to be among the most rapidly growing in the Amtrak system, setting new ridership and revenue records in federal fiscal year 2013, according to a recent annual report released by Amtrak.
Ridership on the Piedmont service increased by 4.7 percent to 170,266 and revenue increased 8.1 percent to more than $3.3 million. Ridership on the Carolinian increased by 3.6 percent to 317,550, and revenue increased by 6.4 percent to more than $19.8 million during that same period. The figures represent the fourth consecutive year of growth for both routes.
At NCDOT, we believe that it is essential for individuals and businesses to have transportation options to get from one area of our state to another as well as to other areas in the country. We want rail to become one of the primary modes our people consider. We are working to get our customers where they need to be and want to be, and this enhances the lives of all North Carolinians.
Since all trains use all tracks, the improvements we making for passengers also benefit the freight services in our state. We are aware of the needs of our freight railroads that bring jobs and opportunity with every train and we want to enhance their opportunities to deliver goods and commodities.
Considering this, we are currently investing more than $520 million in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds into the Piedmont Improvement Program to build tracks and make crossings safer on the North Carolina Railroad between Raleigh and Charlotte.
When the improvements are finished in 2017, we will add two additional daily round trips to the Piedmont service. The increased capacity on the railroad will better connect the economic regions of Raleigh and Charlotte and the cities, towns and communities in between, and provide greater opportunities for job growth and economic development. In addition, the crossing safety improvements will result in improved safety and mobility for the communities along the rail line.
But our job is not complete. We continue to strive to find ways to improve the service. We are looking at both service efficiencies and enhancements for our customers, as well as better connections to the northeast and, yes, to Atlanta.
Mr. Worley’s letter was the subject of some discussion on an Atlanta Journal-Constitution blog.