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Do you take the train to Charlotte? N.C. just received a grant to make improvements

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Train #77 is depicted awaits passenger boarding and unloading at the Durham Amtrak station on Sunday, Aug. 26, 2019. 

A new federal grant will provide about $76 million in funding to enhance rail transportation from Raleigh to Charlotte.

U.S. Rep. David Price, D-District 4, who serves as chairperson of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, announced the grant in a statement on Aug. 22. 

“I am pleased to see North Carolina will receive $76 million in grants to improve service along the Charlotte-Raleigh intercity rail line,” Price said in the statement. “These federal investments in our rail system will help provide a safe, efficient and environmentally friendly transportation alternative for North Carolinians.”

As chairperson, Price oversees the subcommittee that appropriated $272 million for the Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Program in 2018. $76 million of these funds were awarded to the N.C. Department of Transportation by the Federal Railroad Administration for improvements to the Piedmont line, which connects Raleigh and Charlotte.

The improvements include 13 new coaches that will be added to the line, a new station and improved facilities in uptown Charlotte, said NCDOT rail director Jason Orthner.

Orthner said the NCDOT applied for these funds back in March. The Piedmont line is operated by the  N.C. Department of Transportation and Orthner hopes these funds will allow for a greater frequency of trains making round trips between Raleigh and Charlotte each day. 

“We would like to start a fourth round trip Piedmont in the coming years, and this will certainly support that effort, as well as just modernizing the fleet, with newer rail car types, modern equipment, modern features inside, improved ride quality with regards to passenger comfort,” Orthner said.

Orthner said he hopes the new rail cars will go into service in conjunction with the new station in Charlotte, which he said is currently estimated to be completed in 2023. The new Charlotte station will be located in uptown Charlotte, near the Carolina Panthers Stadium and BB&T Ballpark where the Charlotte Knights baseball team plays.

North Carolina will be seeking to update and enhance its rail transit at a time when the popularity of railway travel is on the rise.

“One of the things folks like about passenger rail is that it connects downtowns in cities and towns all along the way, and so the Piedmont corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte is one of our biggest road corridors in the state,” Orthner said. “So having increased passenger rail service just connects those downtowns so you can make that trip without a car.”

Noreen McDonald, chair of the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning, said the investments North Carolina is making are comparable to those Virginia has made to connect its major cities.

"As the state continues to experience high rates of population growth, rail transit will be important to keeping our metropolitan areas growing," McDonald said in an email.

Orthner said adding more frequent round trips would hopefully make rail travel more attractive to business commuters and students.

“It’s a safer, more productive way to travel,” Orthner said.

city@dailytarheel.com

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