NCDOT Report Shows Rail’s Importance to Economy

Written by Carolina Worrell, Senior Editor
North Carolina is home to two Class I railroads and 24 short line railroads.

North Carolina is home to two Class I railroads and 24 short line railroads.

North Carolina’s rail system contributes to more than $20 billion into the state’s economy and supports 88,000 jobs, according to a report released Feb. 26 by the North Carolina Department of Transportation’s (NCDOT) Rail Division.

The Economic Contribution of Rail in North Carolina report, which was produced in partnership with the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at N.C. State University, is the “first of its kind and shows that North Carolina’s rail system is important to the state’s future,” according to NCDOT.

The research analyzed 2019 economic data and 2022 ridership data to reflect the most recent complete data and economic impacts while avoiding disruptions caused by the pandemic.

“This research report demonstrates the importance of the rail network to our state’s economy, moving people and goods safely and efficiently,” said NCDOT Rail Division Director Jason Orthner.

According to NCDOT, the report (download below) highlights specific annual impacts and contributions from rail sectors, including freight, passenger and rail tourism. North Carolina is home to two Class I railroads, Norfolk Southern (NS) and CSX, as well as 24 short line railroads that “provide small and rural communities with critical opportunities to access the state’s major freight railroad network.”

In 2019, freight railroads carried an average of 3,667 tons of freight per train, “leveraging the environmentally sustainable benefit of shipping goods and raw materials by rail and reducing the impact on the state’s highway infrastructure,” according to NCDOT’s Rail Division, which supports 3,600 rail corridor miles across the state, including the 317-mile North Carolina Railroad Company (NCRR) corridor that hosts freight service and the state’s intercity passenger rail service, NC By Train. The extensive railroad network reaches 86 of the state’s 100 counties, making it “vital to the state’s efforts to better connect rural and urban communities.”

According to the report, access to the NC By Train intercity passenger rail system and other Amtrak routes “provide expanded mobility options and enhanced community livability for cities and towns at or near the state’s 16 train stations.” NC By Train experienced record-breaking ridership for the second year in a row in 2023. More than 640,000 passengers rode the train between North Carolina and the Northeast last year. Like freight, NCDOT says passenger rail services “help the state reduce congestion on roads, which extends the life of the highway system and cuts down on harmful emissions from automobiles.” Rail tourism activities across the state also support approximately 410,000 visitors annually in North Carolina.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,