The task force efforts to push the finance plan have been on hold since Norfolk Southern (NSRC) sent a series of letters this past spring that raised a number of serious questions. In response, the involved parties are planning a capacity study of the NSRC O-line - the railroad's name for the line where the commuter rail project would take place.
Representatives of NCDOT and CATS met with NSRC earlier this month to begin that planning, but it will take a couple more months before that is ready. Deputy Secretary for Transportation, Paul Morris, stated that executing the study is fairly "straight forward and predictable", but the important part is getting agreement on the assumptions and scope of the study itself. That's the work that will take place over the next couple of months. It was mentioned that the study could possibly evaluate traffic and capacity requirements from "New York to New Orleans", or it could be much smaller. That is all driven by the assumptions and scope.
|Modified map cutout from NCDOT|
Over the next two months NCDOT and Norfolk Southern will work to define the parameters of the study to be conducted by Woodside Consulting Group described by Paul Morris as "the" consulting company for Class 1 rail carriers. This consulting outfit has been around for decades and certainly appears to be qualified just by looking at their client list. These outside consultants will design and run a computer model that provides a picture of what traffic modeling would look like under the agreed assumptions. They will also provide mitigation and enhancement suggestions to get past any bottlenecks. This is where significant additional costs could come in for the Red Line project.
Unfortunately, the two most important details, timelines and costs for the study itself were not available at Wednesday's meeting. These important details are dependent on the assumptions behind the study. Those watching the project closely will have to wait a little longer to get that information.
By then, the November elections will be over and a new Legislature will be selected. At that point we'll also get to see what happens there. Will the Legislature attempt to pull the plug? Will they push this forward in a lame duck session? Or, will they wash their hands of it and say NCDOT can do what they want without legislative approval?
See the entire Red Line Chronicle here.