States sign agreements with freight railroads for passenger rail projects

There have been noteworthy developments at the state level regarding how passenger rail improvement projects are implemented. Washington State and North Carolina both recently signed agreements with host freight railroads.

In February, a new agreement was announced by the Washington State Department of Transportation, BNSF Railway, and Amtrak to spend $590 million on upgrading freight tracks for improved passenger service between Seattle and Eugene, Oregon. The enhancements will allow greater train frequencies, improve on-time performance, and include more grade separations and an advanced warning signal system.

On March 22, an agreement was signed between the North Carolina Department of Transportation, Amtrak, Norfolk Southern Railway, and North Carolina Railroad. The $460 million project will include double-tracking portions of the line and building grade separations between Raleigh and Charlotte.

“These contracts represent major progress for passenger rail,” said Richard Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

“In addition to planning and building 220-mph core high-speed rail corridors in the U.S., we need to increase frequencies and improve on-time performance on existing Amtrak routes today. The freight operators are key to helping make that happen. We are hoping that spirit of cooperation will continue soon with an agreement between Illinois and the Norfolk Southern to construct the Englewood Flyover in Chicago.”

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