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Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo last week called on elected officials and transportation planners in southeastern states to develop a shared vision of rail service along the Southeast HIgh-Speed Rail Corridor between Washington, D.C., and Atlanta.During a speech at the Virginians for High-Speed Rail 20th Anniversary luncheon, Szabo challenged elected leaders in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia to develop the plan, noting that regional planning between the states could effectively yield seamless passenger-rail travel along the East Coast from Boston to Atlanta.Across the country, regions are banding together to forge collective long-term visions for passenger rail, Szabo said in a press release. Along the Northeast Corridor (NEC), eight states and the District of Columbia are working on a 40-year plan for rail service between Boston and Washington, D.C. In the Midwest, nine states and 40 cities have already developed the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, a planning guide for long-term rail investments, he said. "Good planning is the cornerstone of service delivery and a plan reflecting the collective vision for a region helps the region compete effectively for future rail funds as money becomes available," said Szabo. "In order for the region to achieve optimum growth, it will be necessary for them to work together more closely and plan for their transportation future."Passenger ridership has been setting record highs in the Southeast. In Virginia, ridership is up 100 percent since 2009, and in North Carolina, Amtrak’s Piedmont service between Charlotte and Raleigh continues to set ridership records, carrying about 100,000 more people in 2013 than it did in 2009, said Szabo. Since 2007, passenger ridership increased by 15 percent in Georgia and by 14 percent in South Carolina.Similarly, freight-rail traffic in the Southeast has been increasing an average of 10 percent annually since 2009, while Georgia alone has registered an increase of nearly 13 percent.The Federal Railroad Administration, along with its 32 state partners and District of Columbia, is laying the foundation for a higher performance rail network, Szabo said. Sixty-five projects worth $4.1 billion in High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program funding are currently completed, under construction or will soon start construction in 20 states and the District of Columbia. Today, about $736 million in federal funding supports a dozen projects along the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor.
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