Skip to main content

Back on Track

May 01, 2015 11:52AM, Published by Jason Huddle, Categories: In Print




By: Kim Cassell

The railroad will be forever linked to this country’s history, first as a means to reach the unrealized west, then as a luxurious mode of travel.

In the U.S., the first railroad tracks were laid in the east in the first half of the 19th century. In 1869, the Central Pacific Railroad was completed in the west. This milestone meant people and freight could be transported cross-country.

Shortly thereafter – from the 1880s to 1920s – the American railroad experienced its “Golden Age.” Eventually, however, car and plane transportation dominated and rail travel hit bottom in the 1960s and ‘70s.

Then, in 1970, the U.S. Congress introduced Amtrak. Strictly as passenger rail, Amtrak took the place of private railroad companies that had operated in the red for years.

“Amtrak is a federally-chartered corporation, with the federal government as majority stockholder. The board is appointed by the President of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate, and Amtrak is operated as a for-profit company, rather than a public authority,” according to Amtrak.com.

While Kannapolis relied heavily on the railroad for its textile industry, both with passengers and freight, “more than 85 percent of North Carolina’s railroad stations have been demolished since World War II due to the decline of passenger rail traffic,” according to highpointnc.gov.

The 1980s saw state government support across the board for passenger rail and, in 1990, the Highway Trust Fund financially aided getting The Carolinian rolling from Charlotte to Raleigh, and on to New York City. The Piedmont followed five years later, offering a route that covered Raleigh to Charlotte and back; The Piedmont is state-owned while The Carolinian is state-financed.

The passing of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) in the 1990s meant restoration and new construction for train stations all over the state, and compliance with the Americans for Disability (ADA) regulations. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) designated the stretch of tracks between Washington, D.C., and Charlotte as a high-speed rail corridor.

These advancements were followed in 2010 by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), an $8-billion fund for the revitalization of high-speed rail. North Carolina was named one of the recipient states, which meant improvements for the Kannapolis stop. The expanse between Charlotte and Raleigh alone was earmarked for $520 million; a Kannapolis platform canopy installed in 2013 to protect riders from the elements came from this fund as well.

“This new federal investment represents a major leap forward in making high-speed rail a reality in North Carolina. According to state and federal officials, the project is expected to create or maintain 4,800 jobs in the state’s private sector,” kannapolisnc.gov said at the time.

The Old Southern Railway Station in Kannapolis

Already in place when these improvements were made was a new Kannapolis station. Located at 120 South Main Street, it opened in December 2004. The NCDOT Rail Division provided 90 percent of the funding for the $3.1-million facility while the City of Kannapolis contributed $105,000; Cabarrus County, $60,000; and the Cannon Foundation, $75,000.

In 2014, 18,292 passengers took the train from Kannapolis to their destination. This amounted to $643,256 in station revenue. The 2015 schedule sees The Piedmont running two trains

Kannapolis Train Station

daily between Raleigh and Charlotte at a cost of $35 to $47 each way and with a travel time of three hours and 11 minutes. The Carolinian heads from Charlotte to New York each morning, and New York to Charlotte each evening; Wi-Fi® is available on The Carolinian. Amtrak trains typically travel at speeds of about 100m.p.h.

With the City of Kannapolis purchasing 46 acres of downtown property, the goal is a vibrant mixed use of business, retail and residential development. This could well enhance the need for passenger rail travel. The North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) plays into that as well.

The NCRC is already home to researchers from Duke University, NC A&T, NC Central University, NC State and UNC Chapel Hill, among others. High-speed rail provides a quicker and easier commute. “Employees and visitors to the North Carolina Research Campus (NCRC) will be the big beneficiaries of high-speed rail due to the strong education and research link between the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill (area) and Kannapolis,” kannapolisnc.gov says.

Amtrak brought in about $2.87 billion in revenue in fiscal year 2012, but had nearly $4.04 billion in expenses. In fiscal year (FY) 2013, the company, “covered 89 percent of operating costs with ticket sales and other revenue,” according to Amtrak.com. “Amtrak receives funding from 18 states under 19 operating agreements for financial support of 29 short-distance routes (less than 750 miles).

“Fueled by Amtrak’s valued partnership with its state partners, state-supported routes posted their best-year-ever ridership in FY ‘13 with 15.4 million passengers. States that provide funding and the routes on which some or all service is state-supported during FY 2013: North Carolina – Carolinian (Charlotte- Washington) and Piedmont service (Raleigh-Charlotte).”

The U.S. High Speed Rail Association cites “faster, more efficient mobility, enormous energy savings and reduced environmental damage” as reasons to support and utilize rail travel. If lines expand as hoped – possibly linking the U.S. to Mexico – thousands, if not millions, of jobs will become available. Road traffic (and accidents) will be reduced, as will gas emissions and the consumption of oil.

So, the next time you plan a trip to our state capital or beyond, consider enjoying the scenery as a passenger on a train. For more information, visit www.ncbytrain.org.


Like what you're reading? Subscribe to Cabarrus Magazine's free newsletter to catch every headline



Kannapolis Kim Cassell North Carolina Washington DC Charlotte NC State UNC Chapel Hill ADA Amtrack ARRA Duke University gas emissions highpointnc.gov Highway Trust Fund ISTEA Kannapolis Train Station kannapolisnc.gov Mexico NC A&T NC Central University NCDOT Rail Division New York oil consumption Railroad History Raleigh The Carolinian The Piedmont US Congress US Department of Transportation US High Speed Rail Association US Senate USDOT www.ncbytrain.org


  • Small Business Saturday

    06/24/2017
    08:00AM — 09:00PM

    Make a purchase in any of the participating businesses in Downtown Concord and enter a drawing to...


  • PIEDMONT FARMERS MARKET

    06/24/2017
    08:00AM

    • Open year-round. Fresh local produce, honey, free-range eggs, antibiotic- and hormone-free beef...


  • Join us in beautiful Downtown Concord for the Summer Sidewalk Sale on Saturday, June 24, 2017! ...


  • North Carolina (PSI-NC) is a new nonprofit dedicated to assisting North Carolina families and the...


  • Summer Kickoff Party

    06/24/2017
    09:00AM — 05:00PM

    Kick stands up! Time to kick off summer with a bang. Come and enjoy live music featuring Ethan Ha...


  • Beer Mile

    06/24/2017
    09:00AM

    Registration starts at 9:00 • First group is at 9:30 • Next group goes at 10:00 • Then the rel...


  • Family Day @ The Cabarrus Arts Council

    06/24/2017
    10:00AM — 02:00PM

    Join the Cabarrus Arts Council for Family Day, this Saturday June 24 from 10 - 2 p.m. in The Gall...


  • The 2017 Independence Celebration will be Saturday, June 24th @5pm.


  • Birding in the Sandhills

    06/24/2017
    06:00PM

    Attention bird enthusiasts and those of the like! Join Ranger Fields and local birder extraordina...


  • Live Music at CBC : John Sullivan

    06/24/2017
    07:30PM — 10:00PM

    Looking for a little entertainment while you enjoy a fresh local craft beer? Well, this is the ev...


  • Dorothy in Wonderland

    06/24/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Dorothy in Wonderland opens Friday June 16th, 2017 at 7:30pm Come see local youth actors from ...


  • Dorothy in Wonderland

    06/25/2017
    07:30PM — 09:00PM

    Dorothy in Wonderland opens Friday June 16th, 2017 at 7:30pm Come see local youth actors from ...


  • Renaissance Classical Preschool Summer Camp

    06/27/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Renaissance Classical Preschool Summer camp June 12th-August 4th. Our Summer camp is designed to ...


  • A VET TOGETHER

    06/27/2017
    09:00AM — 11:00AM

    • Join Cabarrus Veterans Coalition the first Tuesday of each month at Carm’s for free coffee and ...


  • A Vet Together

    06/27/2017
    09:00AM — 11:00AM

    Join Cabarrus Veterans Coalition at Carm's Cafe every Tuesday morning for A Vet Together! Fre...


  • Local Organic Farmers Market

    06/28/2017
    04:00AM — 06:00PM

    Enjoy high quality, locally sourced produce from certified organic farmers. Support these hard-wo...


  • Renaissance Classical Preschool Summer Camp

    06/28/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Renaissance Classical Preschool Summer camp June 12th-August 4th. Our Summer camp is designed to ...


  • Earth Fare Grand Opening

    06/28/2017
    07:00AM — 09:00PM

    Earth Fare, the authentic specialty organic and natural food grocery store, invites the greater C...


  • Body Sculpt

    06/28/2017
    05:30PM — 06:30PM

    A combination of traditional body sculpting methods using free weights, resistance bands and your...


  • CBC Trivia Night

    06/28/2017
    07:00PM

    Cabarrus Brewing Co’s weekly Trivia Night hosted by KanePunch Comedy’s Patrick & Joel is held eve...


  • Namaste and have a Beer

    06/28/2017
    07:00PM — 08:00PM

    Join us at Twenty-Six Acres every Wednesday for Yoga with Jill Falconer Yoga! Classes are $10 and...


  • Renaissance Classical Preschool Summer Camp

    06/29/2017
    07:00AM — 06:00PM

    Renaissance Classical Preschool Summer camp June 12th-August 4th. Our Summer camp is designed to ...


  • TODDLER STORY TIME

    06/29/2017
    10:30AM

    • Children from walking age to three years old with caregiver. Songs, stories, finger plays follo...


  • The Miss Harrisburg July 4th Pageant will take place on Thursday, June 29, 2017 at Hickory Ridge ...


  • Kannapolis Farmers Market

    06/29/2017
    04:00PM — 07:00PM

    The Kannapolis Farmers Market will be held every Thursday, 4-7pm May through September, at the co...


Get Cabarrus Magazine Delivered to Your Door!

Subscribe today!


PROUDLY BROUGHT TO YOU BY THESE COMMUNITY SPONSORS


Carolina Pizza Huts
Cabarrus Economic Development
DefyGravity Charlotte
Twenty-Six Acres Brewing Company
Kannapolis Intimidators