09/02/04 — Rail route research finished, DOT says

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Rail route research finished, DOT says

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on September 2, 2004 2:00 PM

The N.C. Department of Transportation has completed all the research it needs to pick a route for Raleigh-to-Wilmington passenger rail service, a state official said Tuesday.

But the staff is still working on translating the results for DOT officials, legislators and the public, said Patrick Simmons, director of DOT's rail division.

"What we have now is a stack of reports filled with technical data, and we're rewriting them for a popular audience," Simmons said. "Our job is to make sure it's an objective analysis."

The final report should be given to DOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett within the next few weeks, he said. It will be made public afterward.

The next step will be for Tippett to make a recommendation for either the Goldsboro or Fayetteville route, Simmons said. "He's our boss. It'll be his decision."

But the secretary will seek the input of both the N.C. Board of Transportation and Gov. Mike Easley's office, Simmons added.

Finally, the N.C. General Assembly will decide if and when to budget the improvements. It will be several years before passenger service could begin on either route.

DOT has been studying the possible restoration of the Raleigh-to-Wilmington line since at least 2000. If a route through Goldsboro is chosen, DOT would likely eventually have at least once-a-day service to Wilmington and Raleigh. Passengers would be able to connect to Amtrak trains.

There's a separate proposal to begin commuter rail service in eastern North Carolina. Backers of Eastrans, a proposed 100-mile-long, U-shaped rail system that would connect Raleigh to Goldsboro and Wilson, are still seeking funding.