Raleigh, N.C. — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, promoted President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan during a series of stops in Raleigh on Friday.
Buttigieg and Emhoff made a morning stop at a local union hall to speak with workers and followed that with a tour of labs at North Carolina State University where research is being done on pavement, 3D printing and advanced materials and systems for sustainable infrastructure.
The pair ended up at Union Station in downtown Raleigh, a hub for Amtrak train and bus service that local officials hope to expand in the future with a possible regional commuter rail line.
“Our infrastructure needs, as far as transportation, needs some work,” said Charles Lattuca, president and chief executive of GoTriangle.
GoTriangle is studying using an existing railroad corridor for a 40-mile commuter rail system that would run from the west side of Durham to Clayton. The proposed system would carry up to 10,000 people a day and include 15 stops, including Raleigh, N.C. State, Cary and Research Triangle Park.
“[That] is about the equivalent of adding a lane on the expressway,” Lattuca said of getting that many people off the roads.
The current cost estimate for the commuter line is $1.8 billion, and local officials say they hope to get a boost in funding from Biden’s infrastructure plan. The plan already includes $1.6 billion for Amtrak to help expand interstate passenger rail service.
“Commuter rail is my No. 1 priority from a transportation perspective,” Raleigh Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin said. ““We have so much going on, and there is more to come. If we don’t start thinking as a region, we are going to fail.”
Raleigh resident David Serrano said commuter rail is needed as more companies like Apple and Google move to the Triangle.
“If you are going to have those kinds of companies here and you are going to serve the communities around here. then you need to have transportation to be able to be around to those kind of jobs,” Serrano said.
“We need to continue looking ahead,” agreed Matt Calabria, chairman of the Wake County Board of Commissioners. ““If we take our eye off the ball, we are going to be in trouble in a decade.”
If the commuter rail study is approved, GoTriangle will move into development phase and apply for federal funds to help pay for the project, Lattuca said.
“The earliest us putting a shovel in the ground would be 2025, and it could take four to five years to construct the project to have it open for regular service,” he said.