FROM THE CAB - October 2022
By Martin Wheeler, President
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER THESE PASSENGER RAIL QUESTIONS? --
Joe Cunningham and Henry McMaster, on the ballot to be South Carolina’s next
governor, were asked three questions about their support for passenger rail in
the Palmetto State. Jim Frierson, South Carolina’s vice president to the Carolinas
Association for Passenger Trains (CAPT), sent letters to both candidates late last
month. CAPT’s board of directors and Jim await responses to these questions:
- Do you believe that South Carolina needs to have intra-state passenger
rail service, i.e. service that connects cities and towns within our state?
- Would you be willing to apply, on behalf of South Carolina, for funding that
is made available from President Biden’s bipartisan Infrastructure
Investment and Jobs Act (infrastructure bill) to assist in developing intra-state passenger rail service?
- Would you be willing to support and perhaps sign legislation establishing
a “rail banking” program to preserve abandoned or for sale rail lines for
future passenger rail use?
The two candidates were told CAPT is an organization of unpaid volunteers who
advocate for improved passenger rail service in both North and South Carolina.
“We do no lobbying; our efforts are all through letter writing, personal contact,
and developing proposals for services to present to elected and appointed
officials and the public,” Frierson wrote.
NC PIEDMONT TRAIN DEVELOPMENTS -–
The long- awaited 5th Charlotte-Raleigh
frequency is now slated to begin in the Spring of 2023. This is in light of
significant ridership increases lately, with Carolinian and Piedmont train ridership
now exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The addition will allow restructuring of train
schedules to include an early Piedmont from Charlotte, and a late Piedmont train
Phase 1 of the Charlotte Multi-modal Transportation Center project "Gateway " is now
completed. Phase 2 will include construction of the center which will serve Amtrak,
Gold Line Streetcar, and local and inter-city bus services. It will be incorporated into a
multi-story mixed-use high-rise development and may also serve light rail. Opening of
the facility is expected in 2026.
RICHMOND-RALEIGH HIGH SPEED RAIL UPDATE --
The R2R project is gaining
steam with a recent infusion of $58 million from the Federal Infrastructure Bill to
begin design work of the former "CSX S line,” much of which was abandoned in
the 1980's. Right of way in Virginia and North Carolina has been purchased by
the respective states.
Passenger service featuring a 110-mph maximum speed is expected, fully grade
separated, concrete ties, high speed switches, high level platforms, advanced signaling
with Positive Train Control, and freight bypass tracks. Preliminary engineering should
be completed by 2026. Service could begin by 2030.
In addition to inter-city passenger services, North Carolina is already planning on
commuter and regional rail services on it’s segment. Virginia plans to extend the
line from Petersburg to downtown Richmond Main Street station by 2040. On a
related matter, NC DOT's Rail Division is taking an initial look at service from
Raleigh to Norfolk for the future via Rocky Mount and Weldon.
WESTERN NC RAIL PASSENGER DEVELOPMENTS --
A feasibility study for up to 3
trains per day between Salisbury and Asheville is expected by end of the year. The
trains would make connections with Piedmont and Carolinian services in
Salisbury. Maximum speed on the line would be 79 mph where allowed. Many of the
stations along the line were renovated in past years for the expected resumption of
service. Question marks are Hickory, which has never embraced the concept, and
Asheville, which will need a new station facility. Service would be several years away
due to expected track, signal, and train control work needed; and approval from
Norfolk Southern which presently owns the line.
ELECTIONS UPCOMING IN NOVEMBER –-
CAPT’S annual general membership
meeting is planned for November 19 in Charlotte. New directors will be elected to
two-year terms, while new officers will be selected for one calendar year. The
board of directors consists of 12 to 18 members, based on the percentage of
CAPT members in North and South Carolina.
Any member interested in running for the board should contact any member of the
present board and provide biographical information or be prepared to provide this
information in person at the November meeting.
Current directors who are ending a term of two years should notify Secretary Phil
if your intention is to run again! Those who
do not notify the Secretary or appear at the meeting will not be considered. “New
board members are needed and wanted because healthy organizations benefit
from new ideas and new energy,” said President Martin Wheeler. The current
CAPT board serves as the official nominating committee.
‘YOU ONLY MISS IT WHEN IT’S GONE’ –-
“The U.S. rail system is an essential part of
the U.S. economy and transportation network,” said Jim Mathews, president of the Rail
Passengers Association (RPA). “Add it up however you want -- $2 billion per day in
costs to the economy, wrecked commutes, missed trips to the doctor’s office, or
ruined vacations with family” were at risk last month when a “potentially crippling
nationwide (rail) strike loomed over an economy just starting to recover from Covid.”
Like CAPT, the RPA “continues to advocate for more trains with better service
and we will continue to talk about how the railroads are a vital and important part
of our economy,” Mathews continued. Readers of this newsletter are
encouraged to support both passenger rail advocacy organizations. To learn
more, enter Rail Passengers Association and/or Carolinas Association for
Passenger Trains in your browser.
STATION NEWS --
The new Amtrak station for Lexington, NC, continues to move
closer. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is kicking in a $24.9 million grant
presented to town officials on September 28th. The NC Department of Transportation
and City of Lexington are also providing funding for the project. Total cost of the
project is $57 million with completion by 2027. The project includes two boarding
platforms, renovation of a freight depot as interim station, auto tunnel under the
railroad at 5th Avenue which will connect Talbert Avenue, track improvements, and
closing the grade crossing at 7th Avenue. Construction work on the project should
begin by 2024.
Thousands in Raleigh are urging the city to save the historic Seaboard Airline
Passenger Station built in 1942. Owners of the property are planning a
redevelopment of the area and may be amenable to including the station in the
development plans. More details can be found at https://wr.al/1NoCZ.
CAPT FALLEN FLAGS --
Longtime CAPT member Harry Clapp of Greensboro passed
away in late June just short of his 99th birthday. Clapp was always helpful in
coordinating our meetings and activities and had much enthusiasm for passenger rail
expansion especially along the route of the Crescent. He was also a member of the
National Railway Historical Society and worked on a number of railroad projects during
his career as a civil engineer.
CAPT member Charles Fishburne also lived in Greensboro for several years
before passing away in retirement in Pittsboro at the age of 101 in 2020. His
father was a railroad conductor for Southern Railway in Columbia which sparked
his rail interest. Charles was an engineer working with Bell Labs, Western
Electric, and number of other companies during his career. In retirement he also
was involved in support for the indigenous and physically challenged
Former CAPT board member and South Carolina Vice-President Joe Roof of Columbia
passed away in 2021. A local attorney for over 50 years, he was instrumental in earlier
years of the association around state and local advocacy in Columbia and South
Carolina, guiding us through legal matters in connection with incorporation and
*The pandemic caused a disconnect among membership, and other news of
members passing would be appreciated as we appreciate and recognize all
involved in our cause,” President Wheeler said.
TRAIL PROPOSALS COULD CONFLICT WITH FUTURE REACTIVATION OF RAIL
LINES IN THE CAROLINAS --
CAPT is involved in helping and supporting groups
wanting to preserve rail use on lines inactive across the Carolinas. The most recent
development is a proposal in Myrtle Beach that might derail proposals to extend rail
passenger service across the Intracoastal Waterway into the downtown area. Also,
CAPT is working with interests in Western North Carolina in connection with a proposal
by environmental groups to put a trail on over 30 miles of the Saluda grade line
between Hendersonville and Tryon, SC. CAPT's goal is to preserve right of ways for
"rail use”, not to convert lines to trails which would preclude future use for rail
transportation passenger and/or freight.