Dec 6, 2023 - News

Raleigh to Richmond's high-speed passenger rail lands $1B grant

Illustration of a multi-colored train moving fast towards the viewer.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

A new high speed rail could be coming to North Carolina sooner than expected.

What's happening: The U.S. Department of Transportation will award a $1 billion grant for the construction of a new passenger rail between Raleigh and Richmond, U.S. Sen. Thom Tillis announced Tuesday.

Why it matters: The massive cash infusion is enough to fund a significant portion (but not all) of the work needed to rebuild tracks between the two cities, per rail advocates.

  • It also brings Raleigh one step closer to having high-speed rail access to Washington D.C.

What they're saying: "This $1 billion grant for North Carolina to make progress on the Raleigh to Richmond Rail Line is a big win for economic development in the region," Tillis said in a statement.

Catch up quick: Last summer, the federal government awarded $58 million toward kickstarting a re-build of the S-Line rail corridor — a line between Raleigh and Richmond that has been out of commission for more than half a century.

  • "I think it speaks volumes about the need to unclog rail on the East Coast," Danny Plaugher, the director of Virginians for High Speed Rail, told Axios Richmond's Ned Oliver.
  • He called the grant an unexpected surprise, noting that it was only last year that the project landed the federal grant. That funded engineering work that is just now wrapping up.

Of note: It's too soon to say when the new line might open and how fast it will travel, though Plaugher said the goal for any high-speed service will be to beat travel times by car.

Between the line: Virginia and North Carolina have both seen recent investments in passenger train service pay off, with both states setting ridership records this year.

The big picture: The S-Line would allow for passenger trains to avoid a lot of freight traffic between Raleigh and Richmond and allow for speeds of up to 110 miles per hour.

  • It would better connect North Carolina to Virginia, D.C. and the Northeast corridor, making trips from faster, easier and more reliable.
  • And it would contribute to freight and supply chain resiliency in the Southeast, Tillis said.
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