Deal in NC frees federal dollars for rail project

The plan was held up by a disagreement with Norfolk Southern Railway, whose tracks the trains on run on. The company controls the switches on the railway, and U.S. transportation officials wanted guarantees the trains would not just run faster, but have less delays.

But this week, a deal was reached that satisfied the Department of Transportation, the Charlotte newspaper reported.
"This will significantly improve our passenger service and also, I believe, have benefits for the movement of freight through that corridor," North Carolina Transportation Secretary Gene Conti said.

North Carolina business leaders lauded the agreement as well.

"We're anxious to see these improvements, and certainly to see them shorten the travel time between Raleigh and Charlotte," Charlotte Chamber of Commerce senior vice president Natalie English told the Observer. "Train service has picked up, and we think the shorter that service is, the more it will pick up."

North Carolina Gov. Bev Perdue, a Democrat, has caught flak from Republicans in the state for supporting high-speed rail. The North Carolina GOP has encouraged her to give the money back as Republicans in Ohio, Wisconsin and Florida have done.

North Carolina received the second highest rail award from the federal economic stimulus, trailing only Florida's since-rejected $2.4 billion.