Mecklenburg County will receive the lion’s share of $461 million in federal railroad funds -- unless one of its legislators, Rep. Ric Killian of Charlotte, succeeds in his campaign to kill the deal.
NCDOT provided a county-by-county breakdown of rail projects worth $520 million. It combines the $461 million in ARRA (stimulus) funds committed by the Federal Railroad Administration this week, plus $59 million North Carolina received previously.
Mecklenburg gets projects worth nearly $152 million, and it shares a $92 million project with neighboring Cabarrus County. (Killian contends, below, that Charlotte folks would suffer more than anyone else in the state because of this federal investment.)
ARRA Funding for Projects Covered by Agreement by County
Davidson and Rowan* $1,444,659
Cabarrus and Mecklenburg* $92,116,212
Wake, Durham, Alamance, Guilford, Davidson, Rowan, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg $39,598,176
* Projects crossing county lines
Double tracks, straightened curves and other improvements will qualify tracks for a top speed boost from the current 79 mph to 90 mph a few years from now, after the railroads install positive-train control safety technology.
The biggest single project, in Charlotte, involves $128 million to grade-separate CSX and Norfolk Southern tracks that now meet in a four-way stop. The work will send CSX trains burrowing beneath Norfolk Southern tracks. It will prepare the way for Charlotte's next big transportation project: a multimodal station downtown for Amtrak and local transit trains and buses.
Killian contends that the deal will saddle North Carolina taxpayers with future operation and maintenance costs as high as $50 million a year.
In an interview this week I asked him whether the federal funding he wants to kill would benefit his constituents in Charlotte.
"My concern is for the citizens of this state," he replied.
Asked again about whether Charlotte in particular would benefit, Killian said:
I think the answer probably could be no, knowing the citizens of Charlotte pay such a great amount of taxes. And any potential liability is going to be borne by the taxpayers; therefore, I think it could hurt the citizens of Charlotte even more than other areas of the state.
The House Transportation Committee is scheduled to take up Killian's kill bill at its next meeting, Tuesday at noon in 643 Legislative Office Building. Other legislators have said they want more details from NCDOT about the rail projects.