FROM THE CAB - March 2023

By Martin Wheeler, President, Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains

Three roundtrips a day proposed for Asheville-Salisbury Line - The final draft feasibility study for resumption of rail service between Asheville and Salisbury is in, with a final version of the study expected by April 1, 2023. The study assumes 3 roundtrips per day along the line spanning 139 miles, with 4 stops along the line, and with a running time of around 3 hours 25 minutes best time. The service is still probably at least 7-10 years away even under the most optimistic scenarios.

Preliminary figures indicate that 100,000 local trips could be generated, with an additional 150 to 290 thousand offline connections possible by 2045. Total capital cost of the project is projected at 665 million dollars, and an annual operating cost of 7.3 to 10 million dollars. The study also includes an option for a "River Arts" district Asheville station location at the site of the old Asheville Terminal Station which was closed and torn down in the late 1960's.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation is also including the Asheville-Salisbury corridor as one of 13 rail corridors it's asking the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to include in its Railroad Identification Program. The program is designed to speed creation of additional rail passenger routes across the country.

The Federal Infrastructure Law passed last year is expected to fund the lion's share of planning and design costs. When building and operating the new routes a maximum 20 percent local/state dollars would be required to match federal funds. After implementation up to 6 years of continuing federal assistance is possible.

Meanwhile, it is unclear whether South Carolina is planning to submit corridors of consideration to the FRA. CAPT has long emphasized the Charlotte-Columbia, Columbia-Charleston, Columbia- Myrtle Beach, Columbia-Augusta, and Greenville-Columbia corridors. Submission of corridors ends on March 27th. The FRA will receive corridor submissions on a yearly basis with the next round in early 2024.

CAPT's next board meeting is planned for Wilmington on Saturday, March 18th. The meeting will be held at the Railroad Museum along the riverfront and will begin at 10:30 am and will close by 1:00 pm for lunch. After lunch various locations associated with possible resumption of rail passenger service, and railroad relocation routes will be visited. Since it's a long trip down for most, you may want to come down a day early and spend the night. Official meeting information will be sent out in a separate mailing.

CAPT Board Signs Resolution Supporting Asheville - Salisbury Line -- “Now, therefore, be it resolved, through the adoption of this resolution, the Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains fully supports the creation of an attractive, marketable, and cost-effective rail connection service for Western North Carolina between Asheville and Salisbury, that includes sufficient new funding for operations.”

Adopted on February 28, 2023, CAPT praises the Western North Carolina Rail Committee for having worked persistently since 1999 to improve rail service and connectively to the following communities – Asheville, Black Mountain, Old Fort, Marion, Morganton, Valdese, Hickory, Conover, Statesville, and Salisbury.

The area has been without a passenger rail connection since 1975. Economic development, tourism and job creation will benefit through the enhancement of rail passenger service, CAPT writes in its resolution.

The State of North Carolina is also lauded for development of comprehensive intercity rail and transportation services in urban jurisdictions.

Rail linkages between communities and regions strengthen social, historical, and cultural bonds. New freight traffic and environmental benefits by reducing the impact of traffic congestion on North Carolina’s highways, particularly Interstate 40, would be realized benefits for the people of North Carolina.

“The average return on investment for the surrounding community for accompanying station revitalizations throughout North Carolina is more than one dollar for every dollar invested, as demonstrated in Salisbury, Morgantown, Marion, Old Fort, and Asheville (with its purchase of land,” adds CAPT, a passenger rail advocacy group serving both North and South Carolina.

Public Hearing Held in Cary on Raleigh-Durham Commuter Rail Proposal – An initial feasibility study for commuter rail in the Raleigh-Durham area was held in Cary, North Carolina, on February 10. In attendance were David Robinson, CAPT vice president – North Carolina, and Martin Wheeler, CAPT president.

The commuter rail line would run about 40 miles along the North Carolina Railroad Co. corridor. It would connect West Durham to Garner or Clayton. Six stops would be in downtown Raleigh; at North Carolina State; Cary; Morrisville; Research Triangle Park, and downtown Durham. 12,000 trips per day would be provided.

Proponents expect the project would generate $5 billion in Gross Domestic Product. For every $1 billion invested, 50,000 jobs over 20 years would be created, according to the American Public Transportation Authority (APTA).

Click on the website (at right) for more details --

President Wheeler Named to Citizens Transit Advisory Group – The Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners has appointed Martin Wheeler to the Metropolitan Transit Commission’s (MTC) Citizens Transit Advisory Group (CTAG). Wheeler, president of the Carolina Association for Passenger Trains (CAPT), has agreed to serve a two-year term expiring on June 30, 2025.

In commenting on the appointment, Wheeler says “It looks like I will be more involved locally, and regionally with transit in the Charlotte area. It should have no effect on my duties with CAPT.”

The transit advisory board is administered by the City of Charlotte. Last year, Wheeler retired from operator and training responsibilities with Charlotte light rail.

Interested In Learning More About Passenger Rail? – The Rail Users’ Network (RUN) annual meeting and virtual mini-conference is Friday, April 28. "Good Connections: Why the Northeastern Rail Network is important to the entire US" is this year’s theme.

“Our conference is designed not only for rail advocates, but also civic and business leaders, environmentalists, planners, real estate developers, and members of the general public who are interested in knowing more about passenger rail and rail transit,” RUN says in its pre- meeting announcement.

A panel presentation – “Making the Case: ‘Presenting Your Ideas to Managers, Politicians and Journalists’” – is planned for the conference being held at the North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, One Newark Center, 17th Floor, Newark, NJ. Rail advocates can attend in person, or via Zoom Virtual Access for $25 for RUN members and $40 for non-members.

Panelists include David Peter Alan, RUN board member and Railway Age contributing editor; Andrew Albert, RUN Vice Chair and Chair, N.Y. City Transit Riders Council; Jim Blaze, transportation economist and contributing editor at Railway Age, and Steve Sweeney, Center for Public Policy, College of Humanities & Social Sciences, Rowan University, Glassboro, NJ.

Registration deadline is April 15. To register on-line for in person attendance, or Zoom access, go to

Questions? Contact RUN Chairman Richard Rudolph: