As President Barack Obama prepares to spend billions on new high-speed train service across the country, North Carolina is positioning itself to be among the first states to get rolling.
If it wins a healthy share of new federal money, the state will open the throttle on a program of rail upgrades that have already paid dividends in faster travel times and some of the nation's most impressive growth in train ridership.
North Carolina is seen as a good candidate for federal high-speed rail money. But some rail advocates worry that Washington will spread the money among too many rail corridors, diluting its impact. The corridor is a proposed fast-train route from Charlotte to Washington via Greensboro, Raleigh and Richmond.
With Virginia as its partner, the state has laid groundwork since the early 1990s for trains that could speed Raleigh travelers to Charlotte in a little over two hours and to Washington in less than four.
State transportation officials say those speeds are attainable as soon as 2018. Much of the engineering and preliminary government review have been done.
Money has been the missing ingredient, until this year.
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