Pros, cons to high speed rail?

July 28, 2010 9:04:02 PM PDT
There's been a lot of excitement about the Southeast High Speed Rail service connecting Raleigh to Washington, Richmond and Charlotte.Two plans are currently being discussed, because there are two existing lines SEHSR could follow --CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Click here to read about Southeast High Speed Rail

View photos of the area where proposed tracks will go down

Depending on which route is selected, roads may be closed off, some businesses may lose customers and others may be demolished.

"With high speed rail, everything changes," said Jim Belt with Downtown Living Advocates.

Up until a few weeks ago, Belt says he didn't know much about the competing plans for high speed rail through Raleigh, but the more he learns about it, he says, the more he wants to know.

"The decision that's being made here is a 50 to 100 year decision," he said.

Belt says he favors a plan that would bring in high speed rail on Norfolk Southern's route, which would close Jones Street to auto and foot traffic.

For Belt and many others in Glenwood South that's better than the alternative. If the CSX route is chosen, there will be three major changes to Glenwood South's landscape.

For starters, West Street and Harrington Street will be closed at the tracks to both cars and pedestrians. Both of the closings would have huge implications for residents who live in a nearby apartment complex on Harrington Street and on a huge bridge on Jones Street spanning two blocks in either direction.

"The bridge would go over Natty Greene's, over 42nd Street Oyster Bar ... they would be now under a bridge and they're very concerned," Belt said.

But while the Norfolk Southern option looks better to Belt, the CSX line looks much better to Tommy Gardner who owns Auto Interiors and Tops on West Street.

"From here all the way down to Rainbow Upholstery in that area, it'll take every business out on the west side of West Street from here up the road," Gardner said.

Gardner's shop, which his dad moved to the West Street location in 1977, would be the first to go, taken through eminent domain to make room for the new tracks.

"I'm not happy about it, that's for sure," Gardner said.

Meanwhile, the challenge, says Belt, will be making it work for everyone.

"We don't want to shut down high speed rail, we want to find a way to make it work in the interests of the residents and the interests of the businesses that are all working together in the same neighborhood," Belt said.

There is one option Belt says hasn't been seriously considered and that's going underground.

It might cost more, but it could also solve a lot of potential problems.

Click here to learn more about SEHSR

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