NCLM Southern City, Volume 73, Issue 4 2023

2. Mayors are most powerful as a collective: Mayors have more power as a group than they do singularly. Transportation across city and county lines; forging connections with mayors in surrounding communities and across the state not only demonstrates a common interest in the expansion of intercity passenger rail, but also creates the opportunity for the holistic development of rail networks within the communities. 3. Communication is key: Establishing open communication with constituents, city council, staff, neighboring communities, and the North Carolina Department of Transportation ensures continuity, transparency, and cohesion across all levels of government. Crossfunctional alliances and communication create opportunities for collaboration on complex issues like intercity passenger rail where success depends, not only on a unified understanding of the issue and the solution offered, but on significant resources and financial contributions from all persons at the table. 4. Dedicated funding from state government can boost local efforts: A dedicated stream of recurring dollars from the state can bolster that state’s competitiveness for federal grants and create a stable investment in intercity passenger rail for years to come. Maintaining consistent communication with legislators and extending invitations for them to interact in your communities first-hand helps build meaningful working relationships that may prove beneficial when advocating for dedicated funding sources. It is always helpful to take any opportunity to leverage, research, data, and anecdotes to inform legislators of the public benefits of intercity passenger rail and how a state investment in the expansion of services will have positive economic and social benefits statewide. Those first three findings fit well the accomplishments of the five regional Rail Response meetings. At each, municipal officials and community leaders heard an overview of current The state’s goal is to eventually connect cities and towns from the coast to the mountains, from Wilmington to Asheville, with passenger rail service and to see those numbers climb even more. continues on page 13 passenger rail in the state and the possibilities of additional funding through the bipartisan infrastructure bill. The legislation includes $66 billion in passenger and freight rail infrastructure investment, with $44 billion to be distributed through the Federal Railroad Administration’s discretionary grant program. As a part of the planning process, the NC Department of Transportation has applied for 13 planning grants of $500,000, each corresponding to proposals to connect more North Carolina cities by passenger rail or make improvements to existing routes. Currently, 16 cities in the state are served by passenger rail service. The Piedmont and Carolinian trains, part of North Carolina’s Amtrak service, each make a morning and evening run between Raleigh and Charlotte. The trains stop in Cary, Durham, Burlington, Greensboro, High Point, Salisbury, and Kannapolis. The Carolinian also makes stops in Selma, Wilson, and Rocky Mount in the eastern part of the state. NC By Train, the state’s Amtrak intercity passenger rail service, posted its highest total ridership in 2022 with more than 522,000 passengers using the service. The state’s goal is to eventually connect cities and towns from the coast to the mountains, from Wilmington to Asheville, League Update: Passenger Rail Expansion NCLM.ORG 11