Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Choo! Choo! Here comes high speed rail

Posted By on Tue, Feb 9, 2010 at 3:40 PM

I love trains. Why? It's nice to sit back, relax and focus on a book or some project on my laptop instead of the road every once and a while — without paying airport premiums. Sure, right now, it takes a little bit longer to travel by train than by car — but North Carolina's new high speed railway aims to narrow that gap.

Last week, Charlotte train travelers took a big step toward a faster and smoother commute to Raleigh.

The state was allotted $520 million in federal stimulus money to speed passenger trains between the state’s two largest cities. The grant will pay for laying double tracks in some sections, straightening tracks, building bridges to eliminate grade crossings at highways and buying diesel locomotive and passengers cars.

The result: Those N.C. trains would be able to average speeds as fast as 90 miles per hour, and the number of round-trip trains would double to four daily. The goal for the Charlotte-to-Raleigh leg is to cut the trip to two hours from the current three-plus hours.

“It is a seminal project,” says Patrick Simmons, director of the rail division of the N.C. Department of Transportation. “We are going to build a service that is reliable and where we link communities.”

Still, the $520 million grant is but a small portion of the $5.4 billion price tag for the Charlotte-to-Richmond, Va., leg of a Southeast rail link that runs from Atlanta to Washington. The goal is to eventually cut the time of the Charlotte to Richmond trip to less than 4½ hours.

Read the rest of this Charlotte Business Journal article, by Ken Elkins, here.

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