NCLM Southern City, Volume 73, Issue 4 2023

ver late summer and fall, five cities across the state hosted meetings organized by Rail Response, a project of the North Carolina Metro Mayors Coalition, examining how more investment in intercity passenger rail can bring economic and other benefits to North Carolina. Those meetings—held in Wilmington, Durham, Asheville, Rocky Mount, and Salisbury—were a rousing success, bringing together community leaders at each stop, as well as media coverage that brought more public awareness about the possibilities of intercity passenger rail expansion and improvements. The larger effort was organized by the members of the Metro Mayors Coalition and NCLM staff as the Federal Railroad Administration began considering an expansion of passenger rail routes through funding provided by the bipartisan infrastructure bill passed by Congress in late 2021. In addition to these regional meetings, the Rail Response workgroup has put together a report that makes recommendations on ways that North Carolina cities can encourage intercity passenger rail investments. The workgroup was led by co-chairs Susan Kluttz, former Salisbury mayor and former Secretary of the NC Dept. of Cultural Resources, and Nick Tennyson, former mayor of Durham and former Secretary of the NC Dept. of Transportation. The other members were Durham Mayor Elaine O’Neal, Winston-Salem Mayor Allen Joines, Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander, Asheville Mayor Esther Manheimer, Mooresville Mayor Miles Atkins, Rocky Mount Mayor O LEAGUE UPDATE Passenger Rail Expansion Rolling Down the Tracks SCOTT MOONEYHAM Director of Political Communication and Coordination Sandy Roberson, Concord Mayor Bill Dusch, and Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo. Among the findings of the group: 1. Grassroots organization is critical: The best transportation projects are locally owned and supported. Grassroots work is one of the most powerful tools cities can leverage to boost the state’s competitiveness for federal grants and energize local communities around the possibilities and potential benefits of intercity passenger rail. Community forums, local programming, and canvassing are a few examples of how city officials can educate residents on intercity passenger rail and proactively garner support and enthusiasm for development or expansion of intercity passenger rail services in their community. SOUTHERN CITY Quarter 4 2023 10