Better rail service for NC? The State is working on the “missing link”

SANFORD, North Carolina – An Amtrak train bound for Raleigh passes through downtown Sanford twice a day. Freight trains criss-cross the city several times a day. But Sanford, about 45 minutes southwest of Raleigh, has not had passenger rail service in more than 50 years, according to the city’s mayor-elect.

A new $3.4 million federal grant is being provided to help communities like Sanford, Apex, Wake Forest and Norlina plan and begin designing new multimodal hubs, including train stations that could connect to public transit local. The funding is part of a larger project to improve rail service in the South.

“Mobility hubs will be a place where residents can get off the train and then take a bus or walk to a local restaurant, or even bike to work,” said Joey Hopkins, chief operating officer of the Department of Transportation. from North Carolina. “We know that a good transport system is the backbone of a strong economy.

What do you want to know

  • Federal grant will give North Carolina $3.4 million to begin work planning and design of new ‘mobility hubs’ in seven central North Carolina communities for new passenger rail service
  • Hubs would connect passenger train service to local transit and other options for commuters and visitors
  • The money will go to Norlina, Henderson, Franklinton, Youngsville, Wake Forest, Apex and Sanford
  • The new hubs are part of a much larger project to increase passenger rail service in the Southeast, including high-speed rail from Raleigh to Richmond

The hubs are part of a larger rail project in the southeast called the S Line. This project plans to operate a new rail service from Sanford, northeast through Raleigh and to Norlina, near the border with Virginia.

Seven communities along the line will share the $3.4 million federal grant to plan and begin designing new transit hubs. (Graphic: NCDOT)

“This segment of the S-Line is a missing link in the larger vision for passenger rail service in the Southeast,” according to NCDOT.

The idea is that the new Sanford-Norlina line will connect to other regional and national rail lines, including the Piedmont line that runs from Raleigh to Charlotte, the new high-speed rail line planned to run from Raleigh to Washington D.C. , and other Amtrak lines that carry passengers across the country.

“These hubs will provide multimodal connections in every community. They will serve as an entry point and ensure vibrant and thriving communities for future generations,” Hopkins said. He joined city officials outside Sanford’s Historic Railroad House, a museum dedicated to the area’s train history.

Sanford is actually named after Colonel CO Sanford, a famous railroad engineer from the late 19th century when the town was incorporated. The city was founded at the intersection of two major rail lines in Lee County.

“This is a community-defining project,” said Sanford Mayor-elect Rebecca Wyhof Salmon. “Twice a day, Amtrak rains in our community nonstop. And I was always asked: why can’t Sanford stop?

“Now I’m being asked when our community rail service will begin,” she said, standing outside near historic Steam Engine No. 12 in downtown Sanford.

“It will take vision and hard work from all of you here to make this a reality,” she said, addressing her fellow city leaders and NCDOT staff gathered on Tuesday morning.

Railway projects take decades to plan, design and build. They involve planning and coordination between the federal government, several states and many local governments along the route.

Residents of Sanford or Norlina will not be able to board a train next month, even next year. But the process is progressing.

The latest round of funding came from the bipartisan Infrastructure Act, a massive spending plan passed by Congress earlier this year. It includes funds for other transit projects in North Carolina, including $12 million for a new bus maintenance facility in Cary, $18 million for a new port facility in Wilmington and the money to rebuild 28 bridges in western North Carolina.

New Federal Line S Grant gives money to the state and communities along the route to complete planning and environmental studies, and begin designing new stations and “mobility hubs” said NCDOT’s Ryan Brumfield.

But, he said, they are still trying to figure out exactly what rail service along the S line will look like.

“Eventually, the S-line corridor will have trains running at a certain frequency each day, providing intercity service across the region,” he said. “The mobility hub is what brings it all together, allows these regional intercity connections to facilitate local connections to jobs, employment, schools, groceries and other services in the community.”

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