Possible high-speed rail in downtown?

August 5, 2008 4:45:35 AM PDT
There's a good chance you've lived in Raleigh for years and noticed the Amtrak station. It's in a great location, just blocks from the heart of downtown Raleigh, but it's lightly used and largely unnoticed. But city leaders say the future for Raleigh rail is on a much different, much faster track.

"We are all very excited about high-speed," says Raleigh City Planning Director Mitchell Silver.

He's talking about high-speed as in as in high-speed rail -- like they have already connecting cities like Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

Amtrak wants to build a line that would zoom back and forth between Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; Raleigh, Charlotte and Atlanta.

"It will open up Raleigh as a hub on the East Coast, along with some of the other major hubs and really provide an alternative to taking the plane or driving, so it's really attractive to the city of Raleigh," Silver says.

It's an attractive idea, but one with its share of challenges. A very preliminary study by the state and federal governments suggests closing several key downtown intersections to make way for high speed rail. Those intersections include, but are not limited to, Jones Street at West Street and North Street at Harrington Street.

Amtrak wants to eliminate crossing arms and create places where cars would cross a high-speed rail line, preferring a so-called "sealed corridor" for the line.

Some worry that might cut downtown off from Glenwood South -- not a good thing, according to the mayor. "The character of areas needs to be kept, particularly in Glenwood South, which is developing into not only a nightspot and commercial corridor but also residential corridor, so we need to be sure that area has walkability, not too much noise and it all fits in together," Mayor Charles Meeker says.

There is confidence that compromises between Amtrak and the city can be worked out in the years to come, and the hope is to have high-speed rail running through the Capital City by 2017.

Tuesday the city council will review a letter from Mayor Meeker to the NCDOT and Amtrak, voicing his concerns about their preliminary study.


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