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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has begun construction on rail improvement projects along the North Carolina Railroad Co.'s (NCRR) Piedmont Corridor between Raleigh and Charlotte, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) announced yesterday.NCDOT recently broke ground at Klumac Road near Salisbury for a double-track railroad bridge that will eliminate an existing grade crossing. Later this month, the department also will begin construction on a new roadway bridge that will eliminate four crossings south of Salisbury at Peeler Road, FRA officials said in a press release.The projects are part of the Piedmont Improvement Program (PIP), which is supported by a $520 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant. Program partners include CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, NCRR, NCDOT and the FRA.PIP includes 12 projects aimed at separating freight-rail, passenger-rail and highway traffic, and builds on NCDOT's sealed corridor program launched in 1992 to improve or consolidate crossings along the Southeast high-speed rail corridor, FRA officials said. The Piedmont Corridor is part of the Southeast HSR corridor that runs from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, and will include a proposed future extension to Atlanta.PIP projects — which include grade separations and crossing closures and enhancements — will enhance safety for train travelers, motorists and pedestrians, reduce congestion, and lay the foundation for a higher-performing freight- and passenger-rail network, FRA officials said. The program will eliminate 17 percent of the crossings in two counties, in addition to separating rail and vehicular traffic, they added."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," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.