Today, EPA Secretary Lisa Jackson announced a $544 million investment in North Carolina's high speed rail corridor. As Mrs. Jackson said, “Every dollar we spend on high speed rail is an investment in job creation and in cleaning the air we all breathe.” Once again North Carolina will be a leader in the fight to support cleaner transportation solutions. A majority of the funds, nearly 520 million dollars will be invested in enhancing the Raleigh-Charlotte lines, while 24 million will be used for track improvements north of Raleigh. Upgrading the rails to high speed tracks and adding more daily services will enable bussinessman and travlers to not only reach Charlotte in less than two hours, but also choose a transportation mode that is safer for the environment.
In 2009, motor vehicles were responsible for nearly 30% of all Co2 emmisons in NC. Offering citizens an alternative to driving will not only reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, but also improve our air quality. Mr. Stan Myberg of the EPA said, "This investment will significantly help North Carolina's communities reach the new federal air quality standards." Since North Carolina is expected to add an additional 4 million residents by 2030, its critical that we stop relying on motor vehicles and move towards cleaner more effieicent transportation modes. If we don't we will not only face environmental challenges, but our health care cost's will continue to rise as more citizens fall victim to the affects of poor air quality.
Congressman David Price was also eager to put the funding into action, he pointed out that North Carolina is one of only seven states receiving federal high speed rail funding and that it will bring over 4,500 jobs to the state. He mentioned that in 1992 Governor Jim Hunt had a dream to bring high speed rail to Raleigh, since then North Carolina has appropriated over $300 million for the state's inter-city rail service. Congressmen Price told us today,that this federal funding will take us the rest of the way in achieving Governor Hunts dream.
This federal assistance also has the potential to boost North Carolina's economy. The Piedmont region, has already been named one of the countries fastest growing economic regions. The benefits of inter-city rail linking are endless, creating fast, affordable transportation will not only lay the ground work for long term economic growth, but as Raleigh City Councilman Russ Stevenson noted, it will be smart economic growth that focuses on the bigger environmental picture.
Sierra Club State Director Molly Diggins said, that the funding "may well be the single most important accomplishment of the Perdue Administration to date." This funding represents a fundamental shift in North Carolina's transportation policy, with continued support, our citizens will benefit from not only an efficient transportation mode, but also a cleaner, safer environment.