WASHINGTON, D.C. —” It has been more than a year since President Barack Obama announced that 31 states and the District of Columbia would receive $8 billion in funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to plan, develop, and construct high-speed and intercity passenger rail projects in corridors across the country. In a new two-minute state department of transportation (DOT) update video, North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eugene Conti, chairman of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials Standing Committee on Rail Transportation, said citizens already are enjoying the benefits of these investments in his state.

"The federal Recovery Act dollars have allowed us to make some big moves," Conti said. "We have a major passenger rail station under development in downtown Charlotte and, with additional investment in the way of public-private partnerships, we’re convinced that the entire downtown area will be transformed."

In addition to stimulating the economy, Conti said passenger rail reduces traffic congestion and greenhouse-gas emissions and it gives people more travel options. Ridership is up in the state. In FY 2010, the North Carolina state-owned Piedmont rail service, which is operated by Amtrak, had the largest percentage increase in ridership of any Amtrak rail line in the nation: 46 percent. Amtrak ridership increased 6 percent nationwide in FY 2010. In North Carolina, the increase Amtrak ridership was double that amount: 15 percent.

In January, AASHTO updated its high-speed and intercity passenger rail website with information demonstrating how North Carolina DOT and other states are bringing a new era of passenger rail service to the United States. State DOTs are responsible for planning, building, and delivering high-speed and intercity passenger rail. They are working collaboratively with existing freight and passenger railroads as well as the Federal Railroad Administration to achieve success.

"North Carolina DOT has spent more than 15 years building its passenger rail program," Conti said. "As chairman of the Standing Committee on Rail Transportation, I’ve been working closely with AASHTO to share best practices with other states. We’re doing the important work of building for both today and tomorrow."

Watch the full video and other two-minute state DOT updates at www.transportationtv.org.