North Carolina report outlines importance of rail to state’s economy

© Shutterstock

A new report from the NC Department of Transportation’s Rail Division has found that the state’s rail system contributes more than $20 billion to the state’s economy.

The Report, the Economic Contribution of Rail in North Carolina, found that the rail system supports 88,000 jobs in the state. Produced in partnership with the Institute for Transportation Research and Education (ITRE) at NC State University, the report is the first of its kind and looks at the importance of rail in the state’s future.

“This research report demonstrates the importance of the rail network to our state’s economy, moving people and goods safely and efficiently,” Jason Orthner, NCDOT’s Rail Division director, said.

Highlighting specific annual impacts and contributions from rail sectors, the report said in 2019 freight railroads carried an average of 3,667 tons of freight per train over two Class 1 railroads and 24 short line railroads. NCDOT’s Rail Division supports 3,600 rail corridor miles across the state, including a 317-mile North Carolina Railroad Company corridor hosting both freight service and intercity passenger service. The railroad network reaches 86 of the state’s 100 counties, making it an important part of the state’s efforts to connect rural and urban communities.

In 2023, NC By Train, an intercity rail system, saw record-breaking ridership with more than 640,000 passengers riding the train between North Carolina and the Northeast. Rail tourism activities across the state support approximately 410,00 visitors annually in North Carolina.