Updated: Jun 30
Reviving Passenger Rail in Union County
The project aims to address the growing congestion issues in Union County, specifically along Highway 74, caused by exponential population growth. The proposed solution is to bring back passenger rail service to the area, utilizing the existing infrastructure of the old Seaboard Air Line Railroad Route. This project overview outlines the key components and benefits of implementing a commuter and passenger rail system in Union County.
Problem Statement: The population growth in Union County has led to severe congestion on Highway 74, necessitating an efficient and sustainable transportation solution. Expanding the highway is impractical, and other proposed solutions, such as the "Silver Lynx" light rail plan, are costly and delayed.
Proposed Solution: The ideal solution lies in reviving passenger rail service, utilizing the existing infrastructure of the Seaboard Air Line Railroad Route. A heavy rail commuter train is recommended, which can run along a possible initial route of 26 miles from Monroe to Charlotte. This solution is quick to implement, reasonably affordable, and offers an alternate mode of transportation.
Congestion Relief: The rail system will alleviate congestion on Highway 74 by providing a reliable and efficient transportation option for commuters and passengers.
Quick Implementation: Utilizing the existing rail infrastructure allows for a faster implementation process compared to building new transportation networks.
Affordable Solution: The estimated cost, based on comparable projects, of the initial 26-mile route is around $100 million. Thus making it a cost-effective solution compared to other alternatives.
Improved Transit: The rail system will enhance transportation accessibility and connectivity within Southeast Mecklenburg and Union County, benefiting both residents and businesses.
Regional Network Expansion: The rail system can be expanded gradually, creating a robust regional rail network connecting neighboring towns and potentially extending into South Carolina.
Economic Opportunities: The rail system will support economic growth by facilitating the movement of goods and people, attracting investments, and enhancing regional connectivity.
Track Acquisition: Purchase the necessary tracks and right-of-way, potentially incorporating them into the North Carolina Railroad system for effective operation and maintenance.
Infrastructure Development: Construct or refurbish stations along the rail route, ensuring convenient access and amenities for travelers.
Rolling Stock: Acquire rolling stock, either from retired Amtrak trains or through collaboration with Amtrak for the longer route, ensuring sufficient capacity and comfort for passengers.
Coordination with CSX: Collaborate with CSX, the freight operator along the Wilmington-Charlotte line, to minimize disruptions and ensure smooth operations for both passenger and freight traffic.
Usability Considerations: Address concerns regarding usability in light of the proposed "Silver Lynx" light rail plan and bus rapid transit systems, highlighting the advantages of heavy rail in terms of reliability, convenience, and higher ridership potential.
Cost Considerations: The estimated cost for acquiring the rail line is around $2.35 million per mile, resulting in a reasonable overall cost for the proposed initial 26-mile route. Additional expenses include station construction, track improvements, and rolling stock, which can be estimated based on similar projects and existing rail infrastructure.
Stakeholders: The project involves collaboration between local, state, and potentially federal government agencies, transportation authorities, Union County residents, businesses, and CSX as the freight operator. Public engagement and community outreach initiatives will be crucial to gather support and address concerns.
By reviving passenger rail in Union County, this project aims to provide a sustainable and efficient transportation solution, alleviate congestion, enhance regional connectivity, and support economic growth. The proposed rail system will serve as a catalyst for improved mobility and livability in the county while offering a viable alternative to alleviate pressure on Highway 74.
Take a look at Michael's full report here!
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