Development of a high-speed rail line connecting Raleigh, North Carolina, to Richmond, Virginia, has been in the works for more than a decade, but the project is picking up the pace. The federal government is putting another $58 million to continue work on the route connecting the two capital cities.
Amtrak currently runs two trains on the route between Raleigh and Richmond: The Carolinian, which goes from New York City to Charlotte, and the Silver Star, which runs from New York City to Miami. The trip from Raleigh to Richmond on either train takes about four hours.
Once built, the new high-speed rail line will add more trains running between Raleigh and Richmond and cut travel times by about an hour, according to Rep. David Price, a Democrat and chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee in the House.
The funding has bipartisan support. North Carolina Republican Sen. Thom Tillis called the new grant “a huge win for Wake County and the entire state of North Carolina.”
“The Raleigh to Richmond corridor project will improve mobility opportunities for the entire region, including underserved communities, and provide economic opportunity for generations to come,” Tillis said in a statement.
“I am proud to have advocated for this project and look forward to the progress this will bring for both North Carolina and Virginia. I applaud Secretary Buttigieg for his investment in our great state,” he said, giving a nod to Biden administration Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg.
Price, Gov. Roy Cooper, North Carolina Department of Transportation Sec. Eric Boyette and federal officials will join Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones at the Wake Forest Depot Thursday morning to announce the $58 million grant.
The money will go to several key parts of the rail project. It will pay for preliminary engineering work for a missing section on the line and preliminary design for the 162-mile route, according to Tillis.
The funding will also pay for construction to help with safety concerns on part of the line in Wake County, Tillis’ office said.
The Raleigh-to-Richmond line is part of a broader project to expand high-speed rail from Washington D.C. to Atlanta and on to other routes connecting the South. The line to Richmond is key to connect to trains to Washington D.C.
“This critical funding, awarded through the Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grant program will lead to economic development, job growth and improved transportation equity through enhanced mobility opportunities to currently under-served communities along the R2R Corridor,” Price’s office said in a statement.
“Furthermore, it would support additional service frequencies and reduce passenger rail travel times by over an hour between Raleigh and Richmond, offering a more efficient and environmentally friendly alternative to travel than vehicular use on interstates I-85 and I-95,” the congressman’s office said in a statement.
The new high-speed rail route still has years of work designing, permitting and construction before service can start. The Charlotte-to-Raleigh route, which takes about three hours, has proven very popular. North Carolina transportation officials say even during the pandemic it’s been one of Amtrak’s most popular routes.