10/09/08 — Commuter rail study says it is feasible

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Commuter rail study says it is feasible

By Anessa Myers
Published in News on October 9, 2008 1:46 PM

A study released today by the North Carolina Railroad indicates that passenger rail service between Goldsboro and Greensboro would be feasible and could coexist with current freight traffic on the line.

The 11-month study found that commuter trains and freight trains could coexist on the company's tracks but that infrastructure improvements costing as much as billion would be needed to make the service possible.

Some transit officials have pushed for commuter rail service for years. Others, including some businesses that use the rail to ship goods, have said the idea would be a waste of public money.

The study said new tracks, sidings and bridges along the 141-mile long stretch of railroad line would cost $650 million, and the equipment and support facilities for the service would cost another $350 million.

The chairman of the railroad company's board of directors, Bill Kincheloe, said in a press release that commuter rail service could be implemented in less expensive phases if ridership demanded it.

"...Some sections could open for commuter trains faster than others," he said. "However, if communities prefer light rail on dedicated track, this would be preclude that approach. Commuter rail offers and alternative approach that could be a good first step."

The study concluded that if commuter trains could travel to and from Goldsboro and Greensboro on the railroad company's corridor, there would likely be 29 stops in seven counties, serving a total population of more than 2 million people. Eighteen colleges and universities would be within two miles of the proposed commuter trains.

The commuter service would likely go through Goldsboro's Union Station, a station that is expected to be multi-modal, including train and bus services, within the next four years.

Commuter trains typically run in the morning and afternoon rush hours and once midday over long distances, according to the study.

North Carolina Department of Transportation Rail Division employees and Goldsboro officials were attended a meeting this morning in Durham to hear more about the study and its results and recommendations.

The railroad company, Norfolk Southern and state Dept. of Transportation have invested an estimated million in recent years for straightening curves, adding tracks and making other improvements between Goldsboro and Greensboro. The groups plan to make 1 million more in improvements by 2012, with even more tracks needed.

-- Staff Writer Steve Herring contributed to this report.