• Charlotte, NC: Red Line Regional Rail

  • General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.
General discussion of passenger rail proposals and systems not otherwise covered in the specific forums in this category, including high speed rail.

Moderators: mtuandrew, gprimr1

  by Jeff Smith
Here's what I think is a new one for you!

http://www.huntersvilleherald.com/news/ ... e-leaders/

Brief, fair-use quote:
CORNELIUS – Before members of the Cornelius Rail Task Force can get to work, they have a list of about 50 questions that need to be answered by the Red Line Railway project consultants.

During the first meeting of the task force Wednesday, Jan. 4, members of the task force created the extensive list of questions ranging from how the rail line will actually reduce traffic, how the benefits will outweigh the costs, and how the project will be paid for without actually raising residents’ taxes. The task force hopes to have answered by their next meeting Tuesday, Jan. 10.

The Red Line Regional Rail is an initiative to upgrade an existing section of the Norfolk Southern Railroad “O” line in the north corridor of the Charlotte metropolitan area, and would include 10 stops from Charlotte to Mt. Mourne, with possible future expansion north to Statesville.
Last edited by mtuandrew on Sat Jan 07, 2012 1:47 pm, edited 1 time in total. Reason: Moderator Note: Added state name. 1/7/12
  by Jeff Smith
Further updates on the financing: http://www.wsoctv.com/news/30178421/detail.html

Brief, fair-use quote:
The Red Line would operate along 30 miles of existing Norfolk Southern rail line and run from uptown Charlotte to Mooresville in Iredell County.

Consultants have developed a business and finance plan for the project, proposing it be paid for by the state, CATS and the seven major jurisdictions that the Red Line would run through: Charlotte, Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Iredell County and Mecklenburg County.

Eyewitness News has learned one idea Mecklenburg commissioners could possibly consider is a Special Assessment District that would create a higher tax rate for commercial property owners along the rail line. It would be at a rate of 75 cents per $100 evaluation on top of what they currently pay.
  by Jeff Smith
http://www.wfae.org/wfae/1_87_316.cfm?a ... ay&id=8177

Brief, fair-use quote on the Norfolk Southern related portion of the project:
Commissioner Jeff Hare asked to what extent Norfolk Southern has been involved in the most recent plans, which call for upgrading the Norfolk Southern tracks, buying trains and running a freight and commuter rail line. According to an agreement drawn up years ago, when the project was first discussed, the rail company planned to request a licensing fee of $28 million, adjusted for inflation, for use of the rail. But that original agreement will likely be revisited and changed, Mr. Morris said. He has been in communication with the rail company, and was going to meet with an executive Wednesday, he said.

“Norfolk Southern would be our first private partner,” Mr. Morris said.

Task force member Jeff Wakeman asked how Norfolk Southern would benefit from the partnership.

“They’re in the freight movement business,” Mr. Morris said, “not rail building or marketing,” so they would benefit from increased efficiency and publicity.

Norfolk Southern’s primary concern is the cost per mile to operate and move freight, and gaining access to more customers on a more efficient route, he said. And improved freight service is an incentive for the state’s involvement, because improvements to the rail system would make North Carolina more globally competitive in freight, he said.

“We’re losing deals at a corporate level to South Carolina and Virginia because we can’t provide sufficient rail services,” Mr. Morris said.
  by Jeff Smith
Project web-site: http://redlineregionalrail.org/
Welcome to the website for the Red Line Regional Rail Project. This project is a major regional economic development initiative in the Iredell County/Mecklenburg County Region of North Carolina. The Red Line Regional Rail will significantly improve the movement of both goods and passengers along a 25-mile section of track running south from Mooresville to Charlotte, with potential future extension north from Mooresville to Statesville. This website serves as the central point of contact for the project. All aspects of this site will be updated regularly, including Questions & Answers and the Project Calendar.

The Red Line Regional Rail is proposed to be a collaborative regional effort involving the following nine jurisdictions: Mecklenburg County; Iredell County; the Towns of Mooresville, Davidson, Cornelius, and Huntersville; the City of Charlotte; Charlotte Area Transit System; and the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

A Draft Business/Finance Plan for the Red Line Regional Rail was released in December. This Plan demonstrates that:

■Local governments can participate in the project while maintaining control and protecting individual property rights.
■Towns and counties are protected from financial recourse.
■The project is designed to provide relief to I-77 and advance statewide multi-modal logistics efforts.
■The project will rely on future economic development and business growth for funding and will require no increase to the local tax base.
■The project can be fully funded now, including capital costs and operations and maintenance costs for 30 years.
■The project is financially sound, and represents an attractive investment to the financial community.
■All aspects of the proposed approach to fund and implement the project are currently allowed by state law.
The project is starting to run into some resistance from NS (cross-posted there and brought back here):

Norfolk Southern is not on board with Charlotte transit plan

Brief, fair-use quotes:
Norfolk Southern Corp. .Norfolk Southern Corp. Latest from The Business Journals Casino, Westland Mall area ripe for redevelopment, report findsDouble-stacked trains rolling from Cincinnati to ColumbusDouble-stacked trains begin running between Columbus and Cincy Follow this company .has “a broad range of concerns” with a proposed $452 million commuter-rail line to Iredell County that would run on track the company owns, a company executive told the Charlotte Business Journal this week.
That's enough to give me some sticker shock. I know Charlotte's a big hub in the Southeast. The Q&A on the project page lists projected ridership at around 4-5,000. Ridership is all relative, of course (I come from the NYC area with the two largest transit systems in terms of ridership). Doesn't seem like there's a lot of bang for the buck here.

Railroad has major concerns on proposed Red Line
But in a letter made public Friday, Norfolk Southern says the proposal may be 'fundamentally incompatible' with their potential future use of the line.

In the letter, John V. Edwards, general director of strategic planning for Norfolk Southern, says that "current publicity and discussions indicate that Norfolk Southern has agreed to, endorsed, or otherwise has consented to the proposed Red Line project, which is simply not the case."
  by SouthernRailway
I was on a Charlotte transit committee a few years back, when the Red Line was in the works. It and the Blue Line (light rail, from uptown to I-485 in south Charlotte) both performed very well in cost/benefit calculations (and the Blue Line met those required for Federal funding), with a lot of the benefits coming from high-density housing and other transit-oriented developments being built along the rail lines.

Several billion dollars in new real estate developments were proposed to be built along the Red Line; yes, $450+ million seems like a lot, but (1) the Red Line NS tracks are ripe for improvement and are definitely underutilized, (2) the billions in new real estate development (resulting in significant tax collections), will be far higher than the costs of the line and (3) Charlotte is getting big enough where it couldn't continue being a car- and bus-only city. I-77 isn't nearly as bad as some of NYC's highways in any respect, but congestion is high enough that it adversely impacts quality of life there.

However, Norfolk Southern shouldn't be forced to do a deal that is not on commercially reasonable terms for it, without benefits to NS that justify the hassle.

It seems like a complete disaster now, though, with NS writing that it had strong concerns about the project. You'd think that local politicians would have FIRST gotten NS on board, which I always thought was the case. (I no longer am involved on the transit committee.)
  by jb9152
SouthernRailway wrote:However, Norfolk Southern shouldn't be forced to do a deal that is not on commercially reasonable terms for it, without benefits to NS that justify the hassle.
Just as background, I'm involved at a high level with a project to build new regional passenger rail on an existing UP line. Believe me, there will be no "forcing" NS or any other Class I railroad to accept any deal. They simply don't have to, and they answer to shareholders.
SouthernRailway wrote:It seems like a complete disaster now, though, with NS writing that it had strong concerns about the project. You'd think that local politicians would have FIRST gotten NS on board, which I always thought was the case. (I no longer am involved on the transit committee.)
Well, the Class Is are notoriously difficult to deal with on passenger issues, because they're protecting their capacity and future growth opportunities. What has to happen for a successful negotiation with a freight railroad is that the prospective passenger operator has to offer some incentive to the freight railroad. The old buzzwords "make whole" just don't work anymore. The Class I railroads will simply say "no" if all you're offering is the same operating environment, after several years of complications due to passenger facility construction. The passenger rail operator has to step up and demonstrate a real benefit for the Class I. Otherwise, the Class I will simply walk away and say, "we're fine just as we are."
  by SouthernRailway
Good. I have strong concerns about how government treats privately-run railroads; so many people just seem to think "well, if we want passenger trains, the freight railroad has to accommodate us."

Why would ANY business engage in a complicated transaction which at the end of the day would leave the business not better off than it was prior to the transaction?
  by electricron
SouthernRailway wrote:Why would ANY business engage in a complicated transaction which at the end of the day would leave the business not better off than it was prior to the transaction?
Excellent question. Running passenger trains over privately owned freight railroads will only be accomplished if the freight railroad company gains somehow. I agree it will be much harder for passenger trains to be reestablished on rail corridors in good order. But, it's not entirely impossible.
New Amtrak services, for example in Maine, degrading tracks are being upgraded and refurbished at the public's expense. A deteriorating privately rail corridor is being refurbished at no private expense. In North Carolina, the state has owned, partially or wholly, the entire NCRR corridor from Charlotte to Morehead City, since it was first built over 150 years ago.
I agree it will be much harder for passenger trains to be reestablished on freight owned rail corridors in good order. But, it's not entirely impossible. California, Utah, New Mexico, Texas, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have successfully recommenced commuter rail services in different ways within the last decade or so.
Utah bought half the corridor, running brand new tracks for passenger trains immediately parallel to the existing freight tracks. California, Texas, and New Mexico just bought the entire rail corridor, charging freight railroad companies access and usage fees for its use. Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington pay the freight railroad company fairly high access and usage fees, while also paying for all the necessary capital improvements costs. In every case, the freight railroad benefits financially in some way.
  by Jeff Smith
Norfolk Southern Official Calls Red Line Proposal 'Fatally Flawed'
Norfolk Southern Corp. has taken another big swipe at the proposed Red Line Regional Rail Project, saying in a letter to the N.C. Department of Transportation Tuesday that while the company “stands ready to study” the project, it believes the current plan to bring commuter rail to the Lake Norman area is “fatally flawed” and based on outdated assumptions.


Norfolk Southern cannot support the current “Red Line” plan proposed by NCDOT for use of Norfolk Southern’s property. The “Red Line” plan is fatally flawed and based upon assumptions about the projected freight use of the 0 Line that are no longer valid. For those reasons, the current proposal is not feasible and does not constitute a starting point for further discussions.


The Red Line project calls for upgrading about 25 miles of track from Charlotte to Mount Mourne for increased freight service as well as a new commuter rail service. A plan developed by consultants working for the N.C. DOT last year projected that the line would cost $452 million in 2018 dollars to build. Costs would be shared by the state (25 percent) and CATS (25 percent) as well as by town governments along the line and Mecklenburg and Iredell counties (50 percent). The towns’ and counties’ share would come by creating special tax districts along the line.
  by Jeff Smith
Expect delays: http://www.bizjournals.com/charlotte/bl ... delay.html
An executive at the company cast more doubt this week on the fate of the proposed 25-mile line between uptown and southern Iredell County, all but quashing hopes for an agreement that would lead to an opening date of 2018. In recent months, several emails and letters sent by John Edwards, the railroad company’s general director of passenger policy, to Paul Morris, deputy secretary for transit at the N.C. Department of Transportation, have openly questioned the viability of adding passenger service to tracks owned by Norfolk Southern and now used for limited freight service.

The latest salvo appeared yesterday in the inboxes of Morris, Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx and other key transit and political leaders. Edwards, who had already said a new study of the logistics involved in the plan would be needed, now says earlier hopes for reaching consensus by June 30 are impossible.

“Often this type of study is a multi-year effort,” Edwards wrote in an email sent March 14. “It certainly is not one to begin lightly, and such a study can be fairly expensive for the committees to undertake.”
  by Jeff Smith
http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/0 ... dings.html

Brief, fair-use quote:
A special committee appointed to review the draft business plan of the proposed $452 million Red Line Regional Rail project has concluded that the project’s method of financing “appears to be sound and appropriate.”

The 19-member committee also found that the project “could be a significant catalyst for economic development for this region,” according to the committee’s March 19 written report to the Mooresville Board of Commissioners. Mayor Miles Atkins appointed the committee members.

Read more here: http://www.charlotteobserver.com/2012/0 ... rylink=cpy
The NS objections are given due reportage here.
  by Jeff Smith
Signs of life?

http://www.huntersvilleherald.com/news/ ... -possible/
DAVIDSON – Mayor John Woods announced Tuesday evening, June 26, Norfolk Southern has agreed to engage in a rail traffic control study for the Red Line.

This news comes three months after Norfolk Southern sent its third letter to Red Line Task Force leaders stating it had no interest in pursuing the current model of the Red Line, because they believed the financing plan and timeline for the proposed 25 miles of passenger rail from Charlotte to Mooresville was “fatally flawed.”

In those letters, they repeatedly stressed an infrastructure and operations study would have to be completed for the company to even consider the possibility of partnering on the Red Line project.

The rail traffic control study they’ve agreed upon is a computer modeling of the rail system in question, which is Norfolk Southern’s O-Line, also known as the Red Line, which runs from Charlotte to Mooresville and all the way to Salisbury, looping to Winston-Salem.
  by electricron
Jeff Smith wrote:Signs of life?
Depends upon the results of the study, and whether Red Line authority will be willing to pay the costs for the upgrades NS will demand from the results of the study.
  by Jeff Smith
And this article agrees w.you Ron: Will Red Line Happen? Call Is Norfolk Southern's
On June 13, representatives from the railroad, the Red Line and CATS held a long-awaited meeting to talk about the possible study – the essential next step for the Red Line project. That meeting, at Norfolk Southern’s Charlotte offices, included CATS CEO Carolyn Flowers; Bill Thunberg, director of the Lake Norman Transportation Commission; and Mayor John Woods of Davidson, who chairs the Red Line Task Force of the Metropolitan Transit Commission. Representing Norfolk Southern were John Edwards, General Director for Passenger Policy, and Durwood Laughinghouse, Resident Vice President for Government Relations.

Mayor Woods told the Red Line Task Force last Wednesday that the meeting was amicable. “I thought we had a positive productive meeting, very good communications,” he said. “There was a good bit of chat back and forth among the parties.”

But the two sides have yet to work out who will pay for the study. CATS and the N.C. Department of Transportation both have appointed representatives to meet further with Norfolk Southern to hash out the study’s cost, timing and scope. Brian Nadolny, the Red Line projects manager for CATS, and Paul Worley, NC DOT’s assistant director of engineering and safety for rail, were assigned to negotiate those details with Norfolk Southern.
  by SouthernRailway
I used to live in Charlotte and was involved (indirectly) in some Red Line planning issues. Even back in the mid-2000s, there were pretty well-set plans for this line, with strong benefits coming from expected real estate development around train stations, and it's insane that it is STILL in this planning stage.

There are just too many parties involved: NS, CATS, the local transit oversight commission (which, if I recall correctly, consists of mayors of cities around Mecklenburg County), etc.

I think that the government entities involved should just tell NS, "we want X trains per day stopping at stations at towns X, Y and Z, with total trip times of X minutes, and we can pay you $500 million in construction costs and $10 million a year in operating costs to make it happen. If interested, let's sign a service agreement and NS, you can handle everything."