High speed rail talk is back! It has been just over a year since the last major update on the plans to run high speed rail from Raleigh to Richmond, Va. This time, a new alternative has been released, called the NC5 alternative, and SEHSR.org has a massive map that you can download to see this proposal.
First, let me plug the meeting about this update.
The public is invited to attend a Project Update Meeting to learn about a new rail alternative developed for the SEHSR [Southeast High Speed Rail] corridor in downtown Raleigh, NC. The meeting will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011, from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Raleigh Convention Center.
For some history on the project, you can dive into the older RalCon posts here. The short of the story is that in the summer of 2010, three plans were on the table for the portion of the rail line running from Whitaker Mill Road to the future station in Downtown Raleigh’s Boylan Wye. Comments from all three plans were taken in and now a fourth alternative is on the table. By the way for the mathematically gifted, an NC4 alternative was a real idea last year but didn’t gain much ground, hence the NC5 naming of this recent one.
The SEHSR site introduces this new alternative nicely:
Alternative NC5 was developed in response to strong public opposition to Alternative NC3, as well as to the City of Raleigh’s opposition to the disruption of traffic and pedestrian patterns in the area around Jones Street and Glenwood South presented by Alternatives NC1 and NC2. It was also developed to minimize impacts to the freight operations within the Norfolk Southern and CSX rail yards. Last, Alternative NC5 was developed to avoid impacts to historic resources listed in or eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Along with the development of Alternative NC5, revisions have been made to Alternatives NC1, NC2, and NC3 based on comments on the DEIS. All alternatives have removed the bridge on Hargett Street over the railroad, and would instead close the Hargett Street railroad crossing. In addition, a pedestrian bridge along Jones Street over the railroad corridor was added to Alternative NC3 (as well as the new Alternative NC5) to mitigate the effects of the road closure.
If you want, you can download the pdf in its original form at this link, taken right off the SEHSR site.
However, if you happen to like maps that have north pointing straight up, like I do, I have cut, copied and rotated the same version with north pointing towards the top of your monitor. For smaller viewing, I’ve also included key sections of the map that show the major changes.
Steven Waters has made a mash up of the NC5 alternative and Google Maps. See the overlay at this link.
Walking Riding through NC5
Let me attempt to talk you through this route. Place yourself on Whitaker Mill road where it crosses the tracks between Wake Forest Road and Atlantic Avenue. This fictional train I’m putting you on is facing south and will be heading into downtown Raleigh.
The first change is that Whitaker Mill Road will go over the tracks. Not such a shocking change as all the alternatives propose this. It’s a requirement that high speed rail operate on dedicated tracks and not share with street traffic.
Next, starts the controversy that we went through last year. As the tracks move south to Capital Boulevard, there is a crossing between tracks owned by CSX and others owned by Norfolk-Southern. Should the high speed trains follow the CSX corridor or the Norfolk-Southern?
Under NC5, the high speed train continues south and will stay on the CSX train corridor, which are the set of tracks east of Capital Boulevard. This avoids the Norfolk-Southern railyard on the west side of Capital, something that they greatly opposed.
As the train moves southward, the next interesting piece comes around the Wade Avenue flyover. A bridge will be built over Capital and West Street allowing the trains to come out of the CSX corridor and then enter the Norfolk-Southern corridor on the west side of Capital.
The train then continues on into downtown to the future Union Station.
Now I mentioned earlier that streets must be closed for high speed rail and in Glenwood South, Jones Street is the only street where the train crosses at the same level of the tracks so by this rule, Jones would have to be closed at this point. That is the case here. Under NC5, Jones Street will be closed to vehicular traffic. However, the alternative includes a pedestrian bridge over the tracks where the other alternatives did not include that before.
A very interesting plan for sure. The pedestrian bridge over the tracks on Jones Street is a huge plus for downtown and I’m glad the idea of the elevated bridge for vehicles was essentially thrown out. With an ongoing Capital Boulevard corridor study going on, I wonder if this bridge over it will mesh well with a new corridor vision.
Enjoy the maps and provide your comments before October 27th.