We’ve been saying it for years: The reason for relatively low train ridership is not because people don’t want to do it. Our state is loaded with expatriates from the Northeast Corridor who are extremely comfortable traveling by rail.

No, the problem is that we don’t have the lines or the frequency necessary to make train travel a reliable option in North Carolina.

But last week, the Biden Administration let loose $8.2 billion for rail projects across the northern and southern borders, and throughout the East Coast, with an emphasis on North Carolina.

NC will get more than $1 billion, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg announced in Raleigh on Monday, funding high-speed rail lines running from Charlotte to Atlanta and Raleigh to Richmond, with an internal rail network connecting those lines from Asheville to Wilmington.

The Triad’s piece is a line connecting Winston-Salem to Raleigh with stops in Greensboro, Burlington, Durham and Cary. And it should be a game-changer.

The new rail line will shrink the distance between the cities of the Triad, creating a commuter class of people who want to forego their cars in favor of riding the train to work, or perhaps not even own a car at all. On weekends, folks will be able to hop a train from Winston-Salem to the beach, from Greensboro to the mountains, or just travel quickly to a neighboring city for dinner or a show and have a couple drinks without having to worry about driving home.

The ramifications affect housing, zoning, events, downtown parking, bus service, economic development and a dozen more aspects we can’t yet foresee.

It also plugs NC directly to the vast train network that connects the cities of the Northeast Corridor like a neural network. From Washington, DC new high-speed lines will run directly west to Chicago, or north to New York, with transport to all points in between and beyond. Considering parking, TSA and layover times, it might even be faster than flying.

The bad news: We’re looking at five years or more before this particular dream is realized. Until then, it’s more traffic on the Salem Parkway.

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