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The North Carolina Department of Transportation's (NCDOT) Rail Division hosted a planning forum on Tuesday to examine the role that rail transportation has in the continued growth of the state's economy, key industries and overall quality of life.The forum also gave about 200 rail stakeholders — including manufacturers, commodity producers, representatives from economic development agencies and those from the freight- and passenger-rail industry — the opportunity to give input into the development of the NCDOT's Comprehensive Statewide Rail Plan, NCDOT officials said in a press release.In addition, participants learned about the process for submitting and scoring projects according to the new Strategic Mobility Formula that was established by House Bill 817: "Strategic Transportation Investments," as well as NCDOT's efforts to develop a vision for all modes of transportation for the next 25 years.The state's comprehensive rail plan provides the basis for economic growth through investment in freight corridors, prioritizes projects and programs for funding based on data and economic competitiveness, enables rail projects to compete with other modes for funding priority at all levels and identifies creative opportunities to fund rail freight and passenger projects, officials said.The Federal Railroad Administration requires an approved plan for projects to compete for federal funds. During the forum, Transportation Secretary Tony Tata joined State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler, Assistant Commerce Secretary Patricia Mitchell, and Tony Almeida, senior adviser to Gov. Pat McCrory on Jobs and the Economy, for a roundtable discussion on key issues related to the forum topic.
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