High-speed rail from Charlotte to Atlanta inches forward

High-speed passenger train service, potentially traveling at 150 miles per hour, could connect Charlotte, Greenville and Atlanta to the Southeast High Speed Rail corridor already being studied for service between Washington, D.C. and Charlotte. A favorable feasibility study for such an addition was released on Jan. 8 by transportation officials in the three states involved.

The study looked at capacity and speed capabilities, along with possible ridership, revenue and costs to extend service along the I-85 corridor. Additional stops considered by the study included Gastonia, N.C.; Spartanburg and Clemson, S.C.; and Toccoa and Gainesville, Ga. The route studied would move access some 60 miles closer to Asheville by adding the Greenville stop.

Estimated costs under varying scenarios for the additional 365-mile corridor addition range from $3.2 million per mile for lower-speed diesel provisions (90 to 110 mph) to $7.8 million per mile for electrified service (150 to 200 mph). The analysis covered the years 2015 to 2040 and projected relatively steady ridership increases due to projected growth in population in the region, as well as increases in income and travel. Ridership would dictate increases in revenues, it was noted, with profitability projected by around 2032.

North Carolina and Virginia transportation departments began initial environmental work on the original Washington-Charlotte corridor of SEHSR in the mid-1990s, following authorization by Congress in 1991 of a program of national high-speed rail corridors. The SEHSR in Virginia and North Carolina was one of the five original corridors designated by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 1992.

In the feasibility study announcement, S.C. Transportation Secretary H.B. “Buck” Limehouse, Jr called the proposed new corridor “one of the top mega-regions of the nation. We absolutely must be planning ways to connect it with our neighbors to the northeast in energy-responsible ways. This analysis helps to better position ourselves for high speed rail should sufficient funding be appropriated.”

Nelda Holder, associate editor


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8 thoughts on “High-speed rail from Charlotte to Atlanta inches forward

  1. Nelda Holder

    Regarding the question of how Asheville could connect to this — my assumption is that high-speed crossing the mountain barrier could possibly be cost-prohibitive. But that is only my opinion. But I do have a “fact” to offer:

    The N.C. General Assembly’s House Select Committee on Expanding Rail Service issued a report in October 2007 that recommended extending passenger rail service and improving freight rail infrastructure in the state, with service in particular being advocated between Asheville and Salisbury. (Train service to Charlotte and the potential high-speed corridor could be picked up in Salisbury.)

  2. AshevilleObserver

    Thank you for your reply. Even a “low-speed” rail connection, to Greenville, SC, or Salisbury, where the high-speed rail could be available would be a benefit, as long as trains were frequent, as they are in Europe.

  3. orz

    The connection to Salisbury will be pretty painfully slow, for two reasons. First, lots of stops; second, the loops between Old Fort and Black Mountain. It is going to take something like 5 hours to get from Salisbury to Asheville when driving takes 2.

    It will stop in lots of towns along the way, including the bustling metropolises of Conover and Valdese, in addition to Hickory, Statesville, Morganton, Marion, Old Fort, and Black Mountain.

    I have nothing wrong with stopping at small towns, but there also needs to be an “express” service, with stops in, say, just Hickory and Asheville.

    Fewer stops will help, but to get the travel time down to closer to what a car can do, or to get true high speed rail, the loops will have to be bypassed. If the tunnel is only for passenger trains, that would mean about 5 miles, but to accomodate freight as well it would have to be more like 8 or 10 miles to allow for a more gradual incline. Tunneling in rural areas through solid, stable granite is the easiest kind of tunneling, but regardless, you can expect that this would cost at least a half billion dollars, probably much more.

  4. Charlotte Realtors

    Wow.. That’s nice. My wife parents live Atlanta.
    This way she can reach her parents any time she wish.

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