The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) in the US has started construction on rail safety upgrade projects along the Piedmont Corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte.
The projects will include the construction of new grade separations, including road and rail over and underpasses, and highway-rail grade crossing closures.
The improvements will mean that trains on the Piedmont Corridor will be able to travel faster, while road congestion should be reduced and safety at crossings will be enhanced.
In North Carolina, there are over 7,000 highway-rail grade crossings, out of which 300 are located along the Piedmont Corridor in Rowan and Guilford counties.
As part of the programme, new overpasses and underpasses will be built to separate rail and vehicular traffic in the two counties, which will eliminate 17% of the grade crossings in the region.
The projects are part of the North Carolina Piedmont Improvement Program (NCPIP), supported by a grant of $520m from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The upgrades are intended to improve safety for train passengers, motorists and pedestrians, and will also help boost the general performance of the freight and passenger rail network.
US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said that the series of projects will create jobs, and promote economic growth and more liveable communities.
"North Carolina's Piedmont Improvement Program is strengthening freight and passenger rail service, while also delivering substantial road improvements to reduce congestion and make highway-rail grade crossings safer," LaHood said.
The programme includes 12 projects, which aim to separate rail and highway traffic in the region.
The Piedmont Corridor is part of the Southeast High-Speed Rail Corridor, which runs from Washington to Charlotte, with plans to extend to Atlanta, Georgia.
Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) administrator Joseph Szabo said: "The safest crossing is one that doesn't exist, and NCDOT is now on its way to eliminating 50 crossings between Charlotte and Raleigh while building strategic underpasses and overpasses."
Image: The improvements being carried out on the Piedmont Corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte will allow trains to travel faster and reduce roadway congestion. Photo: courtesy of M. Cottrell.