You are not logged in. Login
Project Targets Removal of At-Grade Crossings

Train rolling through Elon, North Carolina
The $520-million Piedmont Improvement Program will include new tracks, sidings, and crossovers as well as the elimination of as many as 23 at-grade highway crossings along the freight and passenger rail corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina. Wikimedia Commons/MPD01605

A complex improvement program by the North Carolina Department of Transportation will bolster infrastructure robustness to improve reliability.

August 6, 2013—The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has undertaken a $520-million project called the Piedmont Improvement Program—a series of rail improvements projects along the Piedmont Corridor that will include new tracks, sidings, and crossovers as well as the elimination of as many as 23 at-grade highway crossings. Each day between 30 and 38 freight trains and 8 passenger trains rumble along the corridor, which links Raleigh, the state capital, with Charlotte, the state’s largest city and an important economic hub.

The project, funded via a grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is aimed primarily at bolstering infrastructure robustness, enabling the addition of two round trips per day by passenger trains. But it is also meant to improve safety and reliability. “Our approach with our improvement project was not one of trying to reduce travel time further, or trying to increase speeds, but trying to build more reliability into the system so that we could run additional trains,” says Paul Worley, the director of NCDOT’s Rail Division.

“This has been a corridor that we have worked on for over 20 years, improving safety [between] Raleigh and Charlotte,” Worley says. “We have eliminated many crossings and this will actually take us through a whole [new] round of improvements and crossing eliminations.”

In written responses to questions posed by Civil Engineering online, Jason Orthner, the manager of design and construction for the NCDOT Rail Division, said he sees a clear connection between safety and dependability. “The elimination of at-grade crossings significantly improves the safe operation of the corridor, but also allows for increased reliability and train schedule adherence,” Orthner said. “Many incidents are possible at at-grade crossings, such as broken gates, stalled vehicles, or collisions, all of which have the ability to slow down or stop the railroad operation.”

Orthner added that the projects would increase safety and improve traffic flow for vehicular traffic as well. “As railroad traffic levels are increasing, delays associated with waiting on passing trains, the resulting queuing, and the delays related to preempted traffic signals will increase,” Orthner said. “Replacing crossings with grade separations guarantees the motoring public can safely cross the railroad without delay.”

The project includes the design and construction of nine major highway bridges, ranging from a 150 ft, one-span structure on McLeansville Road, to a 544 ft, six-span bridge on Turner Road. The project also includes five significant rail bridges crossing over highways. These range from a 130 ft, three-span bridge over Kimball Road to a 199 ft, three-span bridge over Future Mallard Creek Church Road.

The project involves a complex mix of stakeholders, including the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), the multiple railroads that operate on the lines, the governments of the state’s largest and second-largest cities, and smaller municipalities along the corridor. “For example, geometrical improvements to the railroad required by FRA had to meet the track design requirements of the freight railroads,” Orthner said. “The new alignments affected roadways, buildings, utilities, and other improvements inside and outside the rail corridor.

“To overcome these challenges, NCDOT maintained very close coordination with the railroad companies, regulatory agencies, local government, property owners, and utilities throughout the design process,” he explained. “In particular, we engaged the local communities throughout both preliminary and final design to hear their concerns.”

The complex project presents engineering challenges going forward. Many projects are being constructed simultaneously; some are the responsibility of NCDOT, others are managed by the Norfolk Southern railroad of Norfolk, Virginia. All are being constructed on a compressed schedule.

“NCDOT is responsible for the majority of the roadway and railroad grading, drainage, and structures in the program, while the railroads are responsible for track and signal work,” Orthner said. “To construct the project in the most efficient manner while not impeding train traffic, the project phasing must account for each dependent activity.”

Orthner said NCDOT surveyed Norfolk Southern to learn the constraints of the project and then developed computer models to develop program phasing plans that would minimize the impact of construction. “NCDOT and Norfolk Southern are continuing to update these plans as construction begins and progresses to allocate resources effectively between projects to ensure overall program success,” Orthner said.

Although the project isn’t part of plans for high-speed rail, the track alignments will accommodate an increase in train speeds from the current 79 mph to 90 mph, Worley says. But such an increase in speed would require expensive upgrades in signaling equipment, and that investment will be dictated by market demand in the future.

“Right now, there is a lot that can be done better [while] running a top speed of 79 miles per hour,” Worley says. “The whole point is to make the service more reliable and more robust with the additional frequencies. That’s the approach right now.”


  • Avatar

    Very good material with overall enthralling information, I'm a huge fan of your work and what you've done here. Excellent work here, sir.

  • Avatar

    Solid information -- great work as always. I'll pass this on to my superiors since I know they will adore something like this.

  • Avatar

    I am writing a term paper on this topic and came across your post which was very helpful. Do you know where I can find more information about this?

  • Avatar

    This is a terrific article, and I would like more information if you have any. I am fascinated with this topic and your post has been one of the best I have read.

  • Avatar

    This was an excellent article. It has some valuable content on this topic. Thank you for compiling it into an easy to read and well written post.

  • Avatar

    I am currently working on an assignment and I have been exploring your blog for a few hours. Thank you for your post it proved helpful for me.

  • Avatar

    Sometimes it is very hard to find good content on this topic. But your blog is my way to desired information, my problem is solved now. Thanks for posting something worth reading.
    I have been teaching a class and we are looking at this subject in the next week. I will be directing my student to look at your post for good information.

  • Avatar

    I am interested in this topic and would like to find out some more information as my friend need information on this topic. Do you have any other articles about this?
    I have been researching this subject for a few days now for a report I am writing. Your post has been very helpful in this regard. Thanks for another great post.
    I have been researching every aspect of a possible career move. This post is very helpful and shows that you have a lot of knowledge on the topic. Do you have any others?
    Your article shows tells me you must have a lot of background in this topic. Can you direct me to other articles about this? I will recommend this article to my friends as well. Thanks
    This subject has interested me for quite some time. I have just started researching it on the Internet and found your post to be informative. Thanks

  • Avatar

    Your approach to this topic is unique and informative. I am writing an article for our school paper and this post has helped me. Thanks.
    I am have been studying this topic for a long time. You have provided great information in you post and some things I have not seen in other content I have read by others.
    There are a lot of blogs and articles out there on this topic, but you have captured another side of the subject. This is good content thank you for sharing it.
    I am in the middle of working on a school report on this topic and your post has helped me with the information I needed to complete it. Thanks.
    I like the way you described the topic with such clarity. This is something I have been thinking about for a long time and you really captured the essence of the subject.
    Your knowledge of this subject comes through clearly in this article. I love to read this kind of articles, I hope you will update it. Thank you for sharing it with me.
    <a href="">buy likes</a>

  • Avatar

    You'll find normally absolutely a good amount of facts that will adheres fot it take into account. Which is a excellent specify improve up. You can expect the actual concepts previously mentioned since typical creativeness but evidently you'll find inquiries such as the one particular persons improve up where by the most important thing will likely be receiving operate carried out with honest effective rely on. Many of us use? testo-sterone degrees find out if perhaps best practices get occur around such things as that could, but Almost certainly that a distinct undertaking is usually evidently termed as a superb activity. Both kids contain the impression involving simply a moment’s fulfillment, with the unwind with the lifestyles. An exceptional select, My spouse and i just together with all this along with the actual relate who had previously been basically accomplishing a smaller research due to this. Along with they in reality obtained us lunch time for the reason that I stumbled upon this intended for your pet.. seem. And so i need to reword that could: Thnx with the handle! Nonetheless sure Thnkx intended for paying whenever to debate this, I am just highly over it and luxuriate in evaluating additional due to this subject matter. Whenever, whenever you develop into practical knowledge, really does a single head bringing up-to-date your website to comprehend facts? It may be particularly a great choice to me professionally. Important universal series bus up wards for this document!

Add Comment

Text Only 2000 character limit

 Plastic Pipe Institute ad_revised 9 18 14