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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) has selected Piedmont Railway LLC, a subsidiary of Iowa Pacific Holdings LLC, to operate the state-owned Piedmont & Northern (P&N) railroad line in Gaston County, the department announced yesterday.The department and Iowa Pacific have agreed in principle on a lease agreement for rail service on the 13-mile corridor, located about 20 lies west of Charlotte. The NCDOT board will consider the agreement for approval May 7."We look forward to this opportunity to improve freight service along the railroad to support new and existing economic development and job creation opportunities," said NCDOT Rail Director Paul Worley in a press release.Under the agreement, Piedmont Railway will operate, maintain and market freight service on the line. The railroad also will have an opportunity to provide passenger-rail service, such as excursion, tourist, dinner and holiday trains."We are genuinely excited by this opportunity, and we are looking forward to working with NCDOT, Gaston County, the Economic Development Commission, and local companies to transition P&N into a vital component of the Gaston County economic landscape," said Iowa Pacific Holdings President Ed Ellis.The corridor extends from Mount Holly to Gastonia, which a short branch line that extends toward Belmont. The rail line has interchanges with Norfolk Southern Railway at Gastonia and CSX Transportation at Mount Holly.Built in 1911, the line was proposed it for abandonment in the 1980s by its owner CSX. NCDOT purchased the P&N right of way and track materials to preserve the route for future purposes. The rail line has been operating under a lease to Patriot Rail since November 2010.