Earlier today, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo helped break ground on a new railroad overpass at Hopson Road in Durham, North Carolina.
The new overpass will eliminate two different highway-rail grade crossings to improve safety for operators and passengers of trains, cars, and trucks. It will straighten a curve for greater rail safety. And it will add three miles of rail siding to allow passenger and freight trains to pass each other.
These are terrific improvements for our number one priority--safety--but the project also promises to be a great improvement in travel speed for rail service. And when we eliminate rail crossings, we also eliminate rail crossing delays--that's a win for motorists and truck drivers, too.
And, it's just the beginning.
Because the Hopson Road Grade Separation is just the first of 12 grade crossing separation projects set to begin construction this year between Charlotte and Raleigh. Altogether, that means removing 50 highway-rail grade crossings between North Carolina's two busiest cities.
In addition to the transportation benefits, these 12 different projects will create new jobs for the local and state economy.
Yes it can. Improving rail speeds and passing clearance will allow Amtrak to add a fourth daily passenger train between Raleigh--the state capital--and Charlotte--the state's largest city.
And all of this fits into North Carolina's bold plan for the future.
By year’s end, North Carolina and Virginia will have completed the required environmental and engineering work to pursue higher-performing intercity passenger rail service connecting Raleigh all the way north through Richmond to our nation’s capital.
The work that begins today is supported by a 2010 grant from the Federal Railroad Administration made possible by the Recovery Act, and I am proud to see that our funding is not only modernizing North Carolina--and America's--freight and passenger rail networks, but it is also helping to save lives, create jobs, and grow our economy.
As Administrator Szabo said in Durham today, "This is a tremendous example of how sensible investments in transportation are about more than moving people and freight safely and effectively from one point to another. They're about ensuring economic competitiveness."
It's also a demonstration of DOT's commitment to the vision President Obama laid out in his 2013 State of the Union address when he said, "A growing economy that creates good, middle-class jobs -- that must be the North Star that guides our efforts."
Today's event in Durham was a groundbreaking for more than one bridge; North Carolina has broken ground on a train to a strong economic future.