The first step toward returning passenger rail service between Wilmington and Raleigh via Goldsboro has come with $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Transportation, according to a news release.
The money comes from a $3.5 million grant designated for seven rail projects in North Carolina, marking the start of a program to identify rail corridors and develop scope, schedule and cost estimates for possible passenger rail expansion, the release stated.
“This $3.5 million in grant funding to identify and develop potential rail lines across North Carolina could be transformational in how North Carolinians travel,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) in the release.
According to the release, passenger rail service for the Raleigh-Goldsboro-Wilmington corridor to these cities and other locales could resume for the first time since 1968, with a seven to 12-year timeline as a target for completion.
“This is outstanding news,” said Gene Merritt of Eastern Carolina Rail (ECRail), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization based in Wilmington, in the release.
ECRail has been lobbying and hosting public events to generate support for passenger rail.
“We are working closely with the DOT’s Rail Division to make this happen,” Merritt said.
According to the release, the Wilmington-to-Raleigh service would restore railroad tracks from Castle Hayne to Wallace through Pender County and construct a new bridge over the Northeast Cape Fear River for modern rail traffic.
“Modern trains from Raleigh to Wilmington are slated to run under three hours and between 70 to 80 mph,” the release stated.
The project could include a new passenger train station for Wilmington and refurbishing the historic Goldsboro Union Station.
“The final cost is thought to be upwards of $300 million, with local and state contributions to be 20% and the rest to come from already approved federal funding,” the release stated. “Raleigh’s Union Station is becoming a hub for rail traffic, and a $1 billion grant supports a new route to Richmond, Virginia.”
According to the release, the Raleigh-to-Wilmington line is envisioned to include three daily trains in both directions.