Federal DOT Awards Grants to Rail Projects in N.C., Tennessee

Mon September 21, 2020 - Southeast Edition
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The U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) has awarded the city of Lexington, N.C., a $24.9 million grant for the construction of a train and bus station in the town's Depot District, members of the state's congressional delegation announced.

The grant is being awarded through the USDOT's Better Utilizing Investment to Leverage Development (BUILD) program.

"These BUILD grants will repair, rebuild and revitalize transportation systems across America," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao in a press release.

The project includes replacement of the 7th Avenue grade crossing with a grade-separated crossing at 5th Avenue, as well as track improvements.

Lexington is on an old Southern Railway line, but Amtrak trains pass through the town three times a day between Raleigh and Charlotte as part of the Piedmont service, a regional passenger train operated by Amtrak and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). It is a sister train to the Carolinian, which runs from Charlotte to New York City.

However, the current station is only open during the Lexington Barbecue Festival each October.

Lexington has been working on re-establishing passenger rail service in the Depot District and ultimately creating a Transportation Center that would feature an Amtrak train as well as Piedmont Authority of Regional Transportation (PART) bus services. Local officials hope the Transportation Center will connect Lexington citizens to education and job opportunities and attract new residents and businesses to the area.

In a press release, U.S. Representative Ted Budd said the Lexington project and new station will encourage economic development in the state.

"This depot will link Lexington to other centers of commerce like Charlotte, Salisbury, High Point, Greensboro and Raleigh; and will revitalize the city for decades to come," he explained.

Northwest Tennessee Also Gets Rail Grant

Meanwhile, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development (TNECD) was awarded a $7 million BUILD grant for the construction of 5.5 mi. of rail that will connect the TennKen Railroad to the Port of Cates Landing on the Mississippi River in Lake County.

The project is designed to ensure rail, truck and barge access to the port and Lake County Industrial Park, a Select Tennessee Certified Site. Once completed, the project will better position the region for investment by companies considering the site for projects requiring rail access, TNECD officials said in a press release.

"This is a monumental win for Lake County. The Port of Cates Landing has the potential to economically transform northwest Tennessee, and this critical rail grant will enhance the infrastructure for the Lake County Industrial Park," TNECD Commissioner Bob Rolfe said.