Another Step Closer to North Carolina/Virginia HrSR

Written by Marybeth Luczak, Executive Editor
The North Carolina DOT (pictured) has received a grant to purchase right-of-way that will help it provide future high-speed rail service to the Southeast. It is one of many recently announced as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The North Carolina DOT (pictured) has received a grant to purchase right-of-way that will help it provide future high-speed rail service to the Southeast. It is one of many recently announced as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

A $47.55 million grant has been awarded to the North Carolina Department of Transportation for the purchase of CSX’s S-Line rail corridor from Raleigh to Ridgeway, N.C., near the Virginia state line, which will eventually contribute to higher-speed rail (HrSR) service to the Southeast.

The grant is one of many recently announced as part of the Fiscal Year 2020 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

“Developing intercity passenger rail service along the ‘S-Line’ corridor will improve mobility, bolster safety and reduce highway congestion between Raleigh and Richmond [Va.],” Rep. David Price (D-N.C.) said. The right-of-way acquisition “is a critical step forward in this process, which builds on years of collaboration between transportation officials in North Carolina, Virginia and the Federal Railroad Administration, as well as our congressional delegation. As Chairman of the House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, I was pleased to secure dedicated funding in Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations legislation for projects like this one.”

In 1992, the U.S. DOT named the Southeast Corridor​ as one of​ the​ first five federally designated HrSR corridors in the country. Since then, North Carolina and Virginia officials have been planning for service to run through the states, seeking access to the S-Line between Raleigh and Petersburg, Va., along with work on other project components.

For more project details, including a December 2019 award to the state of Virginia, click here.

FY 2020 CRISI Program grants total $320.6 million and will be distributed to 50 projects in 29 states. They will be administered by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). FRA issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the program in April.

CRISI funding—provided in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020—covers freight and passenger rail projects that improve transportation safety, efficiency and reliability as authorized under the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Projects address highway-rail grade crossings, upgrade short line or regional railroad infrastructure, relocate rail lines, improve intercity passenger rail capital assets, and deploy railroad safety technology, for instance. Rural projects have a minimum 25% funding requirement under the CRISI Program.

Among the other recently announced CRISI Program awards are:

• $13.67 million to the 280-mile Buckingham Branch Railroad for the upgrade of 70 miles of track and associated ballast, 14 grade crossings, and five bridges; construction of new drain systems in the Afton tunnel liner to reduce ice buildup; and improvement of clearances in two additional tunnels along the North Mountain Subdivision line between Charlottesville and Clifton Forge, Va.

“We’re pleased to announce these federal funds to make much-needed improvements on the rails and bridges that will improve efficiency and reliability for this rail system,” Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, both Democrats from Virginia, said in an announcement.

• $6.22 million to 180-mile Grenada Railroad, LLC, a RailUSA subsidiary, to complete the final phase of its line rehabilitation project between Canton, Miss., and Memphis, Tenn. The project’s final phase will rehabilitate the 90-mile segment from Grenada, Miss., to Memphis, and include the upgrade of 25 bridges, replacement of 88 miles of ties, installation of crossties in 84 curves, and improvement of 11 bridges and track conditions on the Water Valley Spur Line. It also includes repair work on three tracks in the Durant rail yard and construction of a locomotive service pit. Once complete, the 90-mile rehabilitation project will restore full-speed service along the entire line, improving safety and transit times. The railroad is providing a $4.97 million match for this project, which is expected to cost a total of $12.44 million.

The FY 2020 CRISI grant brings the total level of federal funding for the full Grenada line project to $13.68 million. A $7.46 million Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant in 2017 went toward rehabilitation work on the southern segment of the line between Grenada and Canton, which has been completed.

“This is more good news for the revitalization of a rail line that faced extinction not too long ago,” Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) said. “Federal grant funds, combined with nonfederal resources, will support additional safety and infrastructure improvements to the Grenada Railroad.”

In related news, $248.5 million in FY 2019 grant awards were announced in March to fund 32 projects in 27 states.

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