Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Safer, faster, more reliable train service coming PLUS 4,800 jobs

While several states have recently canceled federally-funded rail improvement projects, North Carolina is finally ready to move forward with its project to make rail service safer, faster and more reliable.

The News-Observer reports
After months of wrangling with a reluctant freight railroad, the N.C. Department of Transportation says it has won the agreement it needed to secure $461 million in federal grants that will put faster, more frequent and more reliable passenger trains on the tracks between Charlotte and Raleigh.

Gene Conti, the state transportation secretary, said DOT will start seeking bids over the next two weeks for contracts to lay tracks, build bridges and buy trains.

The construction is expected to create 4,800 jobs over the next two years and cut the train time from Raleigh to Charlotte below three hours, including seven stops on the way.
The project will improve in several ways, including laying double track and passing sidings, straightening curves, replacing crossings with bridges, and purchasing additional rail cars.

The funds come from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, the original stimulus legislation.

While conservatives point to business anxiety over policy "uncertainty" as a reason for slow jobs growth, the 4,800 jobs for the North Carolina project have actually been held up by a business, Norfolk Southern Railroad, which leases the tracks from North Carolina.

UPDATE (3/22/11): In an effort to prove that the government can indeed inject some uncertainty into its infrastructure improvement and job creation efforts, Republicans in the North Carolina General Assembly have introduced the "No High-Speed Rail Money from Federal Gov't" Act (H422, a.k.a., the "Run 4,800 Jobs Out on a Rail" Act) which would prohibit the state's Department of Transportation from accepting or spending any of the railway grant money that it was awarded.