Business leaders considering relocating their company to North Carolina may look up employee commuting options and ask, “Where is the train?”
Aside from the breakthroughs in Charlotte’s light rail, rail commuting is still an exotic concept in North Carolina. It’s a car-centric state and proudly calls itself a “good road state.” The roads are good, but we also need railroad tracks.
Now of President Joe Biden $ 2 trillion infrastructure proposal, North Carolina can “listen to the train”, like Johnny Cash’s song.The president, who was a regular Amtrak commuter between Delaware and Washington, DC as a senator, is proposing spending $ 80 billion to upgrade and expand Amtrak routes.. If Biden’s plan is approved, some of its railroad funding is likely to come to North Carolina.
The most important impact on the state is the money paid to the important parts of the corridor, A faster route from Raleigh to Richmond. Amtrak said new funds could also be used to add passenger services to Wilmington and Asheville and new services from Charlotte to Greenville, South Carolina.
Jason T. Ausner, director of NCDOT’s rail division, said he was waiting for Amtrak’s plans to focus more clearly. “We are clearly monitoring the proposal and looking for more detailed information,” he said. “The information from Amtrak looks interesting to North Carolina.”
While federal and state-level Republicans and Democrats have favored North Carolina commuter trains, the state is now chaired by the House Expenditure Committee subcommittee, which oversees transportation costs, Congressman David Price. -4th place) and may be in a particularly advantageous position. ..
“I have long advocated more funding to expand intercity passenger rail services. President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan will help North Carolina,” Price said in a statement. It was.
A surge in federal spending on local rail services could also boost support for local commuter rail projects.
Wake County Commissioner and commuter train advocate Sig Hutchinson said the state could return to an era of traveling together in railroad-connected cities and towns.
“This is back in the future,” he said. “All the communities were once connected by rail, but Henry Ford came in and got the Model-T, but decided he didn’t want to do it anymore.”
plans For commuter trains Due to its rapid progress, it is possible to connect seven triangle towns and cities by rail within 10 years. “This is a transformation,” Hutchinson said.
The new promotion of passenger railroads has come after a lot of frustration. The Triangle railroad plan collapsed over a decade ago. In 2019, plans for a light rail system in Orange County and Dallam County will also be made by local transportation GoTriangle. Spent about $ 130 million About planning, engineering and other costs.
The pandemic added an element of uncertainty to previous estimates of rail passenger transport. Some business observers believe that many workers will continue to work from home after the pandemic. This can reduce traffic in all commuting modes.
Recently GAO report “Long-term changes in commuter patterns and increased telecommuting between former riders could impact commuter train financing long after the immediate impact of the pandemic ended,” he told Congress on the commuter train outlook. There is. “
Orthner doesn’t think it matters. Amtrak trains in North Carolina, which were canceled during the pandemic, have been restored and are becoming full. “We are certainly seeing that ridership bounce back,” he said. “Things continue to be open. They will really consider railroads as a travel option.”
This year was a tough year for travel and a tough year for passenger railroads. However, when life returns to normal, the train may come back.
In the near future, visitors to North Carolina may stop asking: where is the train? Instead, they could be riding one.
Burnett: 919-829-4512, nbarnett @ newsobserver.com