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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) recently marked two milestones in the Piedmont Improvement Program (PIP) along the Raleigh-to-Charlotte rail corridor.The department completed the Duke Curve realignment project, enabling freight and passenger trains to increase speeds near the Rowan/Davidson County line. Previously, trains in the area had to slow down at the curve and could only travel at maximum speeds of 45 mph; now, passenger trains can operate up to 65 mph, NCDOT officials said in a press release. The project involved reconstructing tracks south of the Linwood Railroad Yard and north of the bridge over the Yadkin River along the North Carolina Railroad Co.'s (NCRR) corridor in Davidson County."This marks a significant step toward the PIP project’s goals of improving efficiency and travel times of trains along the Raleigh to Charlotte rail corridor,” said NCDOT Rail Director Paul Worley.NCDOT also marked another program milestone: the completion of a key portion of the Hopson Road/Nelson Clegg project near the Wake/Durham County line. As part of the work, new switches were installed for a passing siding, which now will allow crews to complete the project's final pieces, NCDOT officials said. The project calls for building a three-mile passing track and railroad bridge over Hopson Road.The $520 million PIP includes 12 projects aimed at separating freight-rail, passenger-rail and highway traffic. Program partners include CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern Railway, NCRR, NCDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration.Meanwhile, the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) is posting progress on a portion of its O.C. Bridges program. The authority plans to close Orangethorpe Avenue on Aug. 11 to enable crews to continue building a bridge over BNSF Railway Co. tracks.The closure will remain in effect until spring 2016, when the grade separation is expected to be completed. Up to 70 trains travel through the area daily and traffic is expected to increase to nearly 130 trains by 2030, OCTA officials said in a press release.The $634 million O.C. Bridges program calls for building seven bridges or underpasses in Anaheim, Fullerton and Placentia. Construction on the final three projects began in May and completion is anticipated by 2018.