Southeast Corridor rail milestone advances prospects for faster trains

September 18, 2015

Note: The piece of track in question in the article below which will be restored and improved between Raleigh, North Carolina and Petersburg, Virginia is simply the former main line of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, a predecessor to today’s CSX Transportation. The Seaboard and Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, over much of the two railroads were parallel routes, merged in July of 1967 to form Seaboard Coast Line, and the two systems was “rationalized” in the 1970s and 80s to eliminate redundancy and excess track. The former Atlantic Coast Line main line south of Petersburg was chosen as the primary north/south route between Virginia and Florida. When built, the Coast Line infrastructure was a double-track railroad in a fairly direct route. Today, CSX calls that track its I-95 Corridor, and it hosts Amtrak’s Silver Meteor and Silver Star (both former Seaboard Air Line named premier trains), Auto Train, the Palmetto, and the Carolinian.

The former SAL line north of Raleigh, at Henderson, North Carolina and into Virginia, south of Petersburg, was taken up and rail-banked. The rail-banked infrastructure is the line (with some straightening of curves) being touted in the article below as the line which will save 35 miles over the current passenger route via Rocky Mount and Selma, North Carolina into Raleigh.

When the SAL was being cobbled together from a variety of start-up shortline railroads at the beginning of the 20th Century, the decision was made for the line’s main line to serve state capitals. The SAL’s main line began in Richmond, Virginia, and went south to Raleigh, North Carolina; Columbia, South Carolina; with lines diverging also to Atlanta, Georgia; Birmingham, Alabama, and Tallahassee, Florida. If there was a state capital, the Seaboard served it.

The Atlantic Coast Line, originally headquartered in Wilmington, North Carolina, had a business plan which served ports, including Wilmington; Charleston, South Carolina; Savannah, Georgia; and Jacksonville and Tampa in Florida. The Coast Line lived up to its name.

Now, the Seaboard’s inland line, once thought to be redundant and unnecessary, is slated one day to become the fastest route for passengers from the Mid-Atlantic to the Southeast. – CCRail.com Editor

RALEIGH – Environmental documents have been signed to advance a planned railroad shortcut between Raleigh and Richmond, state and federal officials said Thursday, boosting prospects for faster trains between Atlanta and Washington, D.C.

North Carolina, Virginia and the Federal Railroad Administration approved the final environmental impact study for the Raleigh-to-Richmond leg of a rail route known as the Southeast Corridor.Website Insert Out of the Box Thinking copy

 “Without a strong passenger rail system, the Southeast’s growth will be choked by congestion for a very long time,” Anthony Foxx, the U.S. transportation secretary and former Charlotte mayor, said in a news release. “I urge everyone involved to continue pushing this effort forward. High-speed rail in this region is not a luxury but a necessity.”

North Carolina’s DOT has mapped a route for trains that would run as fast as 110 miles per hour between the two state capitals. It would cut 35 miles off the current Amtrak path, which curves through Selma and Rocky Mount, and trim an estimated 75 minutes from the travel time for trips from North Carolina to Washington and the Northeast.

 The plan calls for eliminating every level-grade rail crossing along the line – closing some and building dozens of bridges to carry automobiles over or under the tracks. The route would follow the old CSX “S” line, which serves some freight customers in North Carolina but has been abandoned farther north and in southern Virginia. Curves in the track would be straightened to allow faster train speeds.

But it won’t happen soon, because DOT still needs an estimated $4 billion to buy the land, lay tracks and build roads, bridges and stations. Rather than wait indefinitely for full funding, Virginia and North Carolina officials say they will look for options to start out with less speedy, less expensive train service.Website Insert Our Name Tells Our Story copy

Read the full story from reporter Bruce Siceloff in The News & Observer by clicking here.

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