With the recent occurrence of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding North Carolina highway and transportation projects, the state has shifted its focus to the railroad system.
On Sept. 1, North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue announced the state had submitted the first of its high-speed rail applications for funding under the act. If the funds are allotted, the projects will help retain or produce an estimated 1,457 jobs for North Carolinians.
“The purpose for the ARRA funds is to stimulate the economy,” Elon economics professor Steve DeLoach said. “You want to stimulate the multiplier effect — money gets spent and that creates income for the workers.”
And for those who work on the North Carolina railroads, that is good news in bleak times.
“For the local area, it really depends on who’s getting hired,” DeLoach said. “If they’re local workers that are being hired to work on the tracks, they’ll bring money back.”
The N.C. Department of Transportation filed six “project-ready” applications totaling $92,612,936, and they are requesting $75,950,546 in Federal Railroad Administration grants. It pledged $16,662,390 in matching funds.
The NCDOT worked with the North Carolina Railroad Company, Norfolk Southern Railway, CSX Transportation and Amtrak in order to complete the applications.
The projects include rehabilitating locomotives and passenger equipment for new service, doubling the size of the station in Cary, adding parking in High Point, lengthening the boarding platform in Burlington and grade separating Klumac Road in Rowan County.
If granted, the FRA requires the projects to be completed within two years of the award.
“These rail projects are critical for communities throughout our state,” Perdue said. “Working with our partners in other states will improve the transportation system in North Carolina and in the Southeast.”
In addition, North Carolina is partnering with Virginia to request funding for completion of final engineering for the development of a shorter Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor route with top speeds of 110 miles per hour. This would connect Raleigh with Richmond, Va.
The two states will also partner to complete a corridor development plan which will connect Charlotte, Greensboro, Raleigh, Richmond and Washington, D.C. with passenger trains that can travel at top speeds of 90 to 110 mph.
The second group of applications for the corridor development plan is due to the FRA on Oct. 2., and the ARRA is providing $8 billion in funding for high-speed rail projects around the country.