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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) is seeking proposals from qualified short-line operators to operate the 13-mile Piedmont & Northern Railway (P&N), which runs from Gastonia to Mount Holly.Patriot Rail L.C. in June announced it would terminate its operating lease for the P&N. The railroad serves two businesses, averages 12 carloads per month, and interchanges with CSX Transportation in Mount Holly and Norfolk Southern Railway in Gastonia.NCDOT is partnering with Gaston County to solicit the bids, which will be publicly opened Dec. 2. The new lease will include an initial term of two years and four two-year renewable options."The new lessee will work closely with Gaston County Economic Development to market the rail line and secure new freight customers that will add jobs to Gaston County," said Gaston County Commission Vice Chairman Joe Carpenter in a press release.A selection review committee comprising members from NCDOT and the Gaston County Board of Commissioners will review and evaluate each submitted proposal. A new freight operator is expected to be selected within two weeks of the receipt of bids, with the goal of having the operator in place by Feb. 1, 2015, NCDOT officials said. In the interim, Patriot Rail will continue to operate the railroad."We are looking forward to receiving some good, thoughtful proposals for operating the P&N corridor, and maximizing the opportunities for economic development and job creation," said NCDOT Rail Division Director Paul Worley.