FROM THE CAB - March 2022

By Martin Wheeler, President

$15 MILLION GRANT -- Some major changes will be coming to the Charlotte Transportation Center (CTC) next to Spectrum Center. The open-air facility serves local buses and is also next to elevated LYNX Blue Line light rail station and the ground level City LYNX Gold Line Streetcar service. It will be demolished for another Uptown tower which might be 50-60 stories high.

A $15 million grant will enable Charlotte to construct a new multi-modal transit center featuring an underground bus concourse with seamless connections to light rail and streetcar, local and regional buses, and bicycle and pedestrian trail. It will be underneath the new tower which will feature retail, office, and other uses.

Constructing the new transit hub underground, the City says the project "supports additional development in a dense and transit-rich area of Charlotte, increasing environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness." Improved signalized crosswalks will be featured street level, along with other safety improvements.

The project is not to be confused with the Charlotte Gateway Center under construction on West Trade Street which will feature the modes of Amtrak and planned commuter rail in addition to all the modes present at the existing center on East Trade Street.

WESTERN NC RAIL COMMITTEE -- Twenty-one committee members learned March 2nd that Simpson Engineers & Associates is working on an updated analysis to determine the feasibility and cost of restoring passenger rail service between Salisbury and Asheville and/or Asheville to Greensboro. Stakeholder involvement and ridership plans will impact future corridor development, said Jason Orthner, Rail Division Director, North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). Estimated completion date is December 2022.

Attendees learned that North Carolina continues to be a passenger rail ridership leader from Charlotte/Raleigh to New York City. Federal dollars for surface transportation and safety improvements were discussed, as was Amtrak’s 2035 study.

The Committee will meet again in early April.

WHY PASSENGER RAIL MATTERS -- As reported by the Rail Passengers Association, every 90 days Atlantic Coast Service trains are used by an individual to travel from New York City to Florence, SC, to provide care for her ailing mother. While Amtrak travel is often business or leisure, it’s also “extremely personal.” COVID-driven service disruptions matter to this lady and others who use passenger rail for traveling to medical appointments.

#LATEBYFREIGHT -– Freight train delays of passenger trains are irritating and illegal. Jonsie Stone, RPA’s vice president of Resource Development & Operations, encourages rail passengers to post your experience on Twitter using #latebyfreight.

20,000 COMMUTERS -– To ease congestion on Interstate 40, community leaders are wanting to study the feasibility of a computer rail system connecting Raleigh and Fayetteville. Two commuter rail options would be considered – a Western line through Lillington and an Eastern line through Selma-Smithfield. Estimated costs are $131 million (Western line) and $170 million (Eastern line), media reports say.

The commuter rail line would benefit 20,000 Fayetteville commuters, while also providing a “quick trip” between the two cities for sporting events and concerts. Organizations looking into this commuter rail system include the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Fayetteville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, the NC Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization, and the cities of Fayetteville and Raleigh. Significant federal dollars would be involved, as well.

SIGN PETITION TODAY –- Take action on showing support for this Rail Passengers Association effort, which will also reflect the desire for expanded rail passenger service across the country. Click here: Bring Back Gulf Coast Passenger Rail Service

GO FUND ME -– An economic feasibility study of the Charlotte- Columbia- Charleston Rail Route could be funded through a “go fund me” approach. If enough dollars are raised, the Rail Passengers Association would work with the Carolina Association for Passenger Trains (CAPT) on such a study, board members were told at the organization’s January meeting in Columbia.

Eleven board members participated, either in person or via zoom. Other new rail routes were discussed, and could be mapped out with schedules utilizing new, easy to use software. Tourist interests to and from Myrtle Beach by train is an example. Passenger rail connecting Raleigh-Charlotte-Columbia is yet another.

CAPT would need to work with NCDOT, Norfolk Southern, and CSX to bring more passenger train routes to North Carolina. While the above-mentioned host railroads would likely try to block new routes, it’s hoped the states could offer railroads deals where they receive something of value for cooperation on passenger service.

Administratively, CAPT continues to search for two new board members to serve North Carolina interests. Financially, CAPT’s checkbook balance is $1,713.