$461 million project will speed train trip to Raleigh by 13 minutes

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WBTV) - North Carolina transportation officials say they've reached an agreement that will allow them to obtain $461 million in federal grants to improve train service.

The agreement will allow faster and more frequent passenger service between Charlotte and Raleigh.  State transportation secretary Gene Conti says the agency will seek bids for contracts for tracks, bridges and trains.

Officials say the new service would cut travel time from Charlotte to Raleigh to less than three hours, even with seven stops along the way. However, the ride will only be 13 minutes faster.

The project is expected to create nearly 5,000 jobs.

With the millions, the state will be taking out a zig-zag Norfolk-Southern and CSX trains have to maneuver through in Charlotte's Fourth Ward area.

The project will also add miles of double track and miles of passing track so trains can pass each other.

The work will also straighten out some of the lines and build bridges where the trains intersect with roadways.

Money will also go to begin developing a huge train station in Fourth Ward north of the Panthers stadium. That will be called the Charlotte Gateway Station, which will bring together Amtrak, a future commuter rail to north Mecklenburg and a streetcar through Charlotte.

North Carolina had to obtain an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway to qualify for the grants. The Federal Railroad Administration had been concerned that slower freight trains might hamper the new service.

Copyright 2011 WBTV. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.