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North Carolina DOT will study Raleigh to Greenville passenger rail

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Part of the campus at East Carolina University in Greenville.

Transportation planners will study the feasibility of extending passenger train service to Greenville.

It's one of several expansion proposals under consideration.

Right now, you can technically take a train to Greenville. Amtrak runs a shuttle bus between its station in Wilson and downtown. But Pitt County leaders want the real thing. They say their growing community — home to East Carolina University — will benefit from a direct train connection to Raleigh.

Earlier this month, State Representative Brian Farkas announced the North Carolina Department of Transportation will fund a $250,000 study.

In addition to the Greenville study, NCDOT and Amtrak are looking at potential services to Asheville and Wilmington. Passenger trains used to operate in both cities, but service ended decades ago.

As part of its Amtrak Connects US initiative, Amtrak has unveiled plans to add more than 30 routes by 2035. In North Carolina, that includes enhancements to the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont train, along with new service from Salisbury to Asheville, and Raleigh to Wilmington.

The bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Joe Biden last year includes $66 billion for Amtrak expansion.

But the biggest challenge for extending passenger service is sharing track. Trains carrying people would run on rails owned by freight carriers like CSX and Norfolk Southern.

Bradley George is WUNC's AM reporter. A North Carolina native, his public radio career has taken him to Atlanta, Birmingham, Nashville and most recently WUSF in Tampa. While there, he reported on the COVID-19 pandemic and was part of the station's Murrow award winning coverage of the 2020 election. Along the way, he has reported for NPR, Marketplace, The Takeaway, and the BBC World Service. Bradley is a graduate of Guilford College, where he majored in Theatre and German.
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