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The state Department of Transportation says it has awarded a $10.9 million contract for a project near Research Triangle Park that will close two dangerous rail crossings, straighten tracks to allow faster train speeds, and build a bridge to lift the tracks over Hopson Road.
The Fred Smith Co. of Raleigh won the contract to:
* Close the Church Street rail crossing and nearby N.C. 54 intersection. The north end of Church Street will be realigned with Keystone Park Drive, and the north end of Keystone Park drive will be extended to form a new intersection with Hopson Road.
* Realign the N.C. Railroad tracks, pushing them east to flatten a curve that requires trains to slow down now. DOT engineers have said the change will allow faster train speeds, cutting a minute off the travel time for every Amtrak trip.
* Build a new bridge to lift the tracks over Hopson Road. This eliminates a crossing that has been the scene of fatal crashes in the past.
The work is to be completed by July 2015. Hopson is a two-lane road that gets crowded at rush hour. Traffic will be detoured at times during the construction.