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The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) will seek a new operator for its 13-mile Piedmont & Northern Railway line between Gastonia and Mount Holly after Patriot Rail Co. L.L.C. announced plans to terminate its operating lease with the state. Leased by Patriot Rail since 2012, the state-owned line serves two businesses and averages 12 carloads per month. The Piedmont & Northern Railway interchanges with CSX Transportation in Mount Holly and Norfolk Southern Railway in Gastonia."Our department believes that this rail line has the opportunity to be an economic driver, and we will collaborate with Gaston County to select the best railroad operator to accomplish that goal while providing seamless service to existing and prospective shippers," said NCDOT Rail Division Director Paul Worley in a press release.NCDOT purchased the 13-mile line in 1991 as part of its program to preserve rail corridors from abandonment. The department has spent $5 million over the past three years to upgrade the line, including a $500,000 local funding match from Gaston County.NCDOT expects to select a new operator by the beginning of 2015. In the meantime, the two existing customers will continue to be served and the Rail Division will continue to pursue additional business for the short line in partnership with Gaston County, NCDOT officials said.
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