The development of a Statewide Rail Plan is an important component of statewide transportation planning. Under the provisions of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 (PRIIA) and the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act of 2014 (FAST Act), every state must develop and submit to the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) a comprehensive, up-to-date Statewide Rail Plan to make rail projects eligible for certain federal funding. Plans must be updated at least every five years. North Carolina’s previous rail plan, which was accepted by the USDOT in 2015, must now be updated and submitted before 2020. We were selected to develop the updated Statewide Rail Plan, which, once complete, will lay out a set of goals and a prioritized set of projects to enhance both passenger and rail networks across North Carolina. 

Rail Network Mission

    The purpose of the Statewide Rail Plan is to provide a focused emphasis on safe and efficient movement of people and goods on North Carolina’s railroads through passenger and freight service, while supporting job creation and economic growth. The updated plan will define the state’s vision for rail infrastructure and performance for the next 25 to 30 years. The primary goals of the plan include:

  • Setting a policy for freight and passenger rail transportation
  • Establishing strategies to enhance rail service in the public interest
  • Prioritizing state and federal investments in a Statewide Rail System
  • Seeking to realize economic opportunities by supporting existing and potential rail-served industries and businesses

North Carolina Statewide Rail Plan Update

Engagement, Engagement, Engagement

Our team will incorporate a few key lessons learned from development of the current rail plan in 2015, including the importance of strong stakeholder engagement. Because this is a policy-setting document, it’s important to engage the full range of stakeholders – from federal, state, and local agencies to private railroads and industry users — early and throughout the entirety of the plan’s development. Our intention in doing so is that we can collect a broad range of input on the future vision and priorities for the state’s rail network. Additional lessons learned included clearly communicating the overall vision of the plan (even throughout the more detailed data and analysis required by federal guidance), aligning project priorities with criteria set forth by the Strategic Transportation Investment law (STI), incorporating sustainability strategies, and aligning recommendations with the state’s strategic corridor approach.
North Carolina Statewide Rail Plan Update


What’s New?

In the past few years, there have been significant changes among North Carolina’s railroad network, with new and revised projects across the region, including the Queen City Express, CCX Terminal, new passenger rail stations and services, North Carolina ports expansion, and the Piedmont Improvement Program. Additional studies and initiatives include the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) fleet management study, Raleigh-Richmond incremental service development plan, state freight plan, Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Southeast regional plan, and the Southeast Corridor Rail Commission. Once complete, this updated comprehensive Statewide Rail Plan will help guide decisions about investments and funding, and ideally drive economic growth opportunities across the state.