Hillsborough Amtrak Depot locations

The town of Hillsborough presented seven potential sites for a new rail depot last night.

For more info, check Hillsborough's Development Activity page—they said they'd have info there by Friday January 16, 2009.  Meanwhile, I've put a map of the locations with some notes here.

Two of the sites (5-Hampton Pointe & 6-Collins Property) are on the current Triangle Transit route 420.  A quick and efficient connection to regional bus service is critical for many traveling to/from Chapel Hill.

It was suggested that the Wal-Mart and Home Depot at Hampton Pointe might generate employee commutes, but I seriously doubt the existing train schedules would coincide with work schedules—even with the addition of noon service (scheduled to begin this summer).  Businesses better suited for co-location with a depot would be those frequented by commuters on a daily basis, e.g. groceries, child care, and dining--reducing vehicle miles traveled by combining trips into the daily commute.

Two sites (6-Collins Property & 7-University Station) are easily accessible by bicycle to/from Chapel Hill—about six miles from northern CH & the Eubanks Rd Park&Ride.

Sites 2, 3 & 4 might work well for connecting to a bicycle rickshaw service.  There was talk of connecting these to TT-420 using a circulator bus or van, but having to change buses would severely impact convenience and efficiency for riders, especially elderly & disabled.

Site 1-Efland is about 13 bicycling miles from Calvander.

More notes on each site on the map.


 Thanks for posting this. Here is the updated page for info & feedback. http://hillsboroughnc.org/RailStationTaskForce.asp.And a link to the DTH article.  http://www.dailytarheel.com/news/city/locals_talk_train_station_sites


did anyone else feel the notice in the Newspaper on Wednesday, that it would be that same night, was short?

maybe I missed it in last week's paper

It is almost exactly half way b/w Burlington and Durham and there is plenty of room for a station and parking.

They seem to feel that the roadways on either side of that nice straight track in Efland were constraining development and hemming them in. They expressed concern about space for parking. It looks to me like there's at least a couple thousand feet of uninterrupted space along the track there though.  Southern Dr and Forrest Ave do not look too busy for a crosswalk.For many folks in Chapel Hill, an Efland station would be no closer than the Durham station.  Triangle Transit doesn't currently have any routes west of NC 86.(BTW, TT-403 can currently get you from CH to within one block of the existing Durham depot.)

Efland doesn't seem like a very walkable location for very many people, although building a station there could change that.  Seems like it makes sense to put the station where there is an existing sewer system so that future development can happen in walking distance of the station.  I don't know whether the Efland site has sewer nearby or not.Incidentally, who will pay for building the actual station?

My experience in Efland is that it is not really the best place for cars either. It's kind of difficult to negotiate unless you are 100% sure of where you are going.Although there is a crossroads and I think an abandoned building at railroad crossing, if I remember correctly. I am not sure if that is the same intersection that I am thinking of. I know it would not be very bike friendly without a connecting trail. I am not sure how the community would feel about it, either. The businesses near it rely on a lot of service trucks, if I have my geography correct.

There are a lot of cars coming from Va to 85/40 going thru Efland everyday. Efland will grow a lot in the future. There is s new school just down a street from 85/40.

The Rail Station Task Force web page now links to the presentation (pdf) which includes aerial photos of each site.
(I think this is a new addition since the last time that I looked.)

The, admittedly crude, WalkScore.com ranks Efland a "12":http://walkscore.com/get-score.php?street=Mt+Willing+at+Forrest+Ave+Efla...I don't know what effect dropping a rail depot on to that spot would have on their WalkScore? My personal experience, biking Carrboro→Yanceyville, is that Carrboro→Efland is a nice ride of about 12 or 13 miles, but biking north on the hilly, narrow and busy Efland-Cedar Grove Rd was no fun at all.This OC population density map seems to indicate some density around Efland and a bit more at "Miles NC" (east Mebane?).For me, the lack of bus service would be the killer for Efland.

For comparison I ran all of those sites through walkscore.com:Efland: 12Eno Bellevue: 46Old Depot: 60Faribault: 72Collins: 72Hampton Pointe: 28University Station: 2As a total aside, the intersection of Weaver Street and Greensboro Street scored 96 out of 100.  Mr. and Mrs. Obama's new place scores 97.  NBC's headquarters in Manhattan scored 100. 

Poor University Station--only two points!  I think one is attributable to misinformation about the location of Chapin Planning Library, and the other...is "University Station Market" on US-70 really a grocery?While mindful of Patrick's wise admonition not to "entangle the various different types of rail services" with respect to metrics, clearly commuter and intercity systems should be designed to work together.  Amtrak and DOT understand that Chapel Hill/Carrboro residents would be major users the new depot.  And indeed this station is intended to "also serve future commuter rail operations."Last year's NCRR study connected Chapel Hill commuter rail to the main line at University Rd/Station, with multiple services going east from University Station to Raleigh, via Durham and RTP.  If the Amtrak station were located anywhere other than University Station, commuting between CH and an Amtrak destination by rail would necessitate two changes instead of one.  Adding an extra leg to a trip, with the attendant delays and stress, can be a deal breaker for those traveling with luggage, children, or wheelchairs, etc..The STAC proposal on the other hand, recommended an entirely different route for Chapel Hill commuter rail--one that does not go through University Station or Hillsborough at all, but rather connects CH commuter rail directly to Durham via the 54 and 15/501 corridor.If CH's commuter line might run up University Railroad, University Station is where I'd like to see Amtrak stop--only six biking miles from north Chapel Hill and the Eubanks Park & Ride.

If the Amtrak station were located anywhere other than University Station, commuting between CH and an Amtrak destination by rail would necessitate two changes instead of one.

While service on the SURR from 1882 to 1939 was a tripper (the Whooper) between Carrboro and Universty Station, it is not impossible for the run to be Carrboro to a Hillsborough station via University station -- no stop there, but the train to get onto the mainline for the last mile or so to Hillsborough. All changes would be made at the Hillsborough Station.  There is enough traffic on the mainline that doubletracking University Station to Hillsborough might be necessary operationally. This alternative is perfectly functional for persons going west, but if the passenger was going East it would involve going west from University Station to Hillsborough and then back again, but just one change.   Another possibility is to have a small station built at Univ Station and the train stop at both Univ Stn and Hillsborough, but operationally this adds more minutes for thru passngers when one of the big goals is reducing travel time Raleigh to Charlotte (not to mention the cost of building two stations). Historically, many trains stopped at both Hillsborough and University station.

That sounds pretty good. For north/eastbound CH passengers headed to Amtrak destinations ( beyond Goldsboro, as opposed to commuter destinations ) the tiny backtrack from University to Hillsborough would not be a problem.For CH passengers the NCRR map posted earlier seems to indicate a change of trains at University Road.  Also, Univ Rd to Hillsborough is on the "thin" line on that map, indicating a single route on that segment ("Greensboro/Burlington - Raleigh").When you say "stop at both Univ Stn and Hillsborough," are you referring to the commuter, or the Amtrak?—it would not make sense for the Charlotte-NYC train to make two stops so close together.Regarding a station for the Amtrak service to DC/NYC ("Carolinian"), unlike the "Piedmont" which offers "roll on" bike access, the Carolinian requires boxes and therefore a staffed baggage-handling station.  Local small businesses that ship product via Amtrak also need a baggage-handling station.

When you say "stop at both Univ Stn and Hillsborough," are you referring to the commuter, or the Amtrak?—it would not make sense for the Charlotte-NYC train to make two stops so close together.

Commuter train

Regarding a station for the Amtrak service to DC/NYC ("Carolinian"), unlike the "Piedmont" which offers "roll on" bike access, the Carolinian requires boxes and therefore a staffed baggage-handling station.  Local small businesses that ship product via Amtrak also need a baggage-handling station.

While the Carolinian has a baggage car, you can not check baggage at all stations. For instance, there are no bags checked at Cary or Kannapolis.

Does it make more sense to:

  • locate this station in an area that is existing (or burgeoning) walkable transit-oriented development, or
  • locate in a relatively undeveloped area, in the hope that it can spur walkable TOD

I'm wary of the "if you build it, they will come" idea.  Walkable TOD doesn't seem to have happened spontaneously around the other Amtrak depots in the state.  This is interstate rail, with relatively low-frequency of service, and the host cities do not appear to have attempted to put this asset to it's best use.  Maybe Hillsborough will be smarter.The (probably more distant) commuter rail system, with more frequent service, seems more likely to me to germinate walkable TOD.The NCRR study proposes commuter rail stops in Efland, Hillsborough Area, AND University Road.  Leading me to believe that if the Amtrak depot is sited at either Efland or University Rd, Hillsborough would still get a commuter station at one of the other five locations.

There are three different levels of service proposed: 1) Commuter rail by NCRR.  This would have 8 or 9 trains a day serving Goldsboro to Greensboro, or perhaps a shorter segment, like Selma to Burlington.  This is the concept that would have stops at University Station (The misnamed "University Road" on the NCRR maps is a misunderstanding by their consultants), Hillsborough and Efland 2) AMTRAK. This is ramping up from 2 trains per day to three trains per day late spring, and possibly to four trains per day when there is more double tracking or passing sidings between Raleigh and Charlotte.  Although DOT is resisting service to Hillsborough as it would "degrade" travel times between RGH and CLT by about five minutes, I think it is likely to happen in conjunction with building a station.3) Southeast High Speed Rail. This is Washington to Charlotte service, predicated on double or triple tracking the entire alignment, and is probably 10 years away. The Senate version of the stimulus package includes $2b for High Speed rail, with corridors out of Chicago (now where is the President from?), LA to SFO and the Southeast Corridor the ones likely to see some early money.  In the SE corridor, design work and enviornmental statements are already being done between Richmond and Raleigh. http://www.sehsr.org  I would doubt there would be a Hillsborough stop on this service, but who knows.

I could not have been more wrong two weeks ago when I said HSR was a long way away: 

3) Southeast High Speed Rail. This is Washington to Charlotte service, predicated on double or triple tracking the entire alignment, and is probably 10 years away. The Senate version of the stimulus package includes $2b for High Speed rail, with corridors out of Chicago (now where is the President from?), LA to SFO and the Southeast Corridor the ones likely to see some early money.  In the SE corridor, design work and enviornmental statements are already being done between Richmond and Raleigh. http://www.sehsr.org

Elections have consequences. Barack Obama is a big supporter of high speed rail (HSR)  and other transit issues.  The House stimulus package had ZERO for high speed rail. The Senate had $2 billion.  The conference report on the Presidents desk has $8 billion in 100% federally funded grants for high speed rail. NC and VA are way ahead of the curve on planning.(see http://www.sehsr.org) and we may be near the head of the pack along with, ahem Midwest High Speed rail out of Chicago (now, where is Obama from?) and Pennsylvania's Keystone Corridor from Philly to Pittsburgh (hmm, Arlen Specter (R-PA) was one of three GOP yes votes and is also an HSR supporter. There were some engineering meetings in Charlotte yesterday to start things moving.  While it is actually unlikely that Hillsborough will have an HSR stop, the project will result in one or possible even two more tracks from Cary to Charlotte, which will greatly improve the likelyhood of commuter rail and an AMTRAK stop in Hillsborough. see also http://blogs.newsobserver.com/crosstown/stimulus-bill-could-make-north-carolina-a-fast-track-contender

The federal economic stimulus package includes an $8 billion boost for inter-city and high-speed passenger rail service — and that possibly could turn into a fast-track bonus for the Triangle and North Carolina

 Lots more discussion there

Good comments by Gerry here and on the N&O site.  The high-speed rail would not stop in Hillsborough.  One of the key ingredients in keeping speeds high is wide stop spacing.  In NC, we will probably see stops in Henderson, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, I-485 north of Charlotte, Center City Charlotte, and *maybe* the Charlotte Douglas airport.  If anyone wants to dig into some of the details on HSR, the Federal Railroad Administration has a well-written Executive Summary and Full Report on the corridor.(PDF) I am sure that some of the assumptions and engineering have morphed somewhat since this was published, but it's a good overview of the types of investments needed to bring reliable 110 mph service to fruition between Charlotte and Washington.

For the real rail policy wonks, the HSR will not actually add an extra rail in the entire Cary to Charlotte corridor, it will add a series of 2-5 mile segments of a second (or third) rail Here is what is planned for eastern Orange County in the HSR project (Funston is at NC751 in Durham at the Orange County line). Glenn is the railroad name for University Station where the rail branches to Carrborohttp://sehsr.org/reports/rich_vol_1.pdf p 6-27+28Combining the existing, shorter, Funston and Glenn sidings, a new 5.0-mile second track would be constructed with a mid-point interlocking⎯North Glenn. Toward Funston there would be a two-mile section that is free of highway crossings, hence able to hold long freight trains without adversely affecting highway traffic. With the existing main track to be converted to a siding, 11,000 feet of new main track would be constructed to eliminate several restrictive curves. The new track would bridge over the branch to Chapel Hill and would cut directly across Stony Creek valley on a 50-foot fill. University Station Road would continue to cross the existing track (i.e. the contemplated passing siding) at grade, but would be grade separated over the new main track. The relocation would end near the Highway 10 underpass, west of the current west end of Curve H44.1. Approximately 800 feet in distance would be saved.  Due to this project, the route would be straighter as well as shorter: a series of curves, ranging between two and four degrees, would be adjusted to eliminate restrictive speeds. Upon completion of these adjustments, Curve H50⎯a 2,935-foot, four-degree, 60-mph curve spanning four-lane SR 147⎯would be the most restrictive curve between Hillsborough (MP H40) and Raleigh (MP H80). The changes between MP H43.1 and MP H49.0 would create a 4.9-mile long segment that can be operated at 100-110 mph. The reduction in distance traveled would reduce travel time about 0.1 minutes. The increased speed on the remaining trackage would save an additional 1.1 minutes. Thus, a travel time reduction of 1.2 minutes would be achieved. " And in western Orangehttp://sehsr.org/reports/rich_vol_1.pdf p 6-30The existing Efland siding should be extended southward to include the existing siding at Mebane. A curve realignment at Efland (see columns to the right) would allow the existing main track to become the new siding at that location. The extension would result in a 5.9-mile long siding between MP H37.5 and MP H31.6. The long siding would enable a passenger train to meet one freight train and overtake another freight train (see Chapter 4). A mid-siding pair of crossovers would be provided to enable two opposing freight trains to occupy the siding at the same time. The north portion of the siding has a section of more than two miles without a highway crossing.

Even if it doesn't stop in Hillsborough, I think having this high-speed corridor to which to connect will be an incentive for more local service on the rails. That's definitely good for all of us.

Siting stations to be easily accessible by large populations is even
more important than minimizing travel time--in evaluating high-speed
rail options for the Atlanta-Charlotte corridor, it was observed that: 

"Estimated ridership and revenues decrease as stations are eliminated within any given technology assumption, as shorter access/egress times have a greater influence on demand than the decreased linehaul travel times." (Exec Summary, p. 9)

This makes a lot of sense--once a passenger is seated on-board
a roomy coach, with laptop plugged in and a Heinekin from the café car
in hand, an additional "n" minutes travel time is far more acceptable than spending the same "n"
minutes driving to an inconveniently located station with stress about
making the connection added on top of normal driving stresses.

I hope that Chapel Hill, Carrboro and county residents will
participate in the siting process--despite the title of this thread,
this is to be The Orange County Amtrak depot, and also likely
the only candidate site in OC for a station on any future high-speed
rail service.  Commuter rail may come directly to Chapel Hill, but
interstate rail will not.

Ok.  But what's your point?  You like University Station?  I genuinely am asking, as I find your posts ambiguous about this.  Thanks.

Just to clarify, there are proposals to bring light rail to Chapel Hill, not commuter rail.  The NC Railroad has a proposal which would bring very limited commuter rail service to Carolina North and Carrboro, (2 trains per day)but these trains would not reach Chapel Hill or UNC.  Ernest Robl from Durham has a good comparision page for more on the differences between light rail, commuter rail, streetcar, subway, etc. Adrian is absolutely correct that the only intercity/interstate service in Orange County will originate along the NCRR, and therefore it is important for Chapel Hill/Carrboro citizens to participate in the siting of the Hillsborough station.  Assuming we open an Orange County station in Hillsborough, we could have a one seat ride from Hillsborough to New York Penn Station, Union Station in DC, not to mention Greensboro and Charlotte.  We could potentially have this open in two years.  That's a big deal. I believe that the Boone/Collins property is the best site by a wide margin. In short, here are the reasons:1.  Efland site is too far from population centers of the county for Orange's one intercity/interstate rail station.  It's also getting close to the Burlington station.   2.  The Hampton Pointe/Home Depot and University Station sites mean anyone who wants to reach a destination in most of Orange County needs to board a bus or hail a taxi to do so.  This is a deterrent for part of the ridership base.3.  All of the sites in central Hillsborough present an opportunity for arriving passengers to walk to downtown Hillsborough for tourism, business at County buildings, shopping, and dining.  This raises the profile of the stop as a destination as well as an origin where Orange County residents board.  4.  Of the central Hillsborough stops, Boone/Collins has the best access to major roads (Old NC 86/Churton and 70A) and is closest to the Interstate.  This will make access/egress to the station easier for those arriving by car since they will not need to move through the historic district to reach the train station.  5.  Margaret Hauth has thoughtfully pointed out that Boone/Collins has a built-in joint use benefit opportunity with the ballfields adjacent to the station site.  Any parking facilities that were built could be shared with the fields.  While the level of complementary use with intercity rail is unclear, little league parking is a terrific complementary use for future commuter rail-- most commuters leave the parking lot between 5:00 and 6:15 PM, freeing up spaces for families driving to ballgames. 6.  More land near the station at Boone/Collins means an easier time setting up staging locations for buses meeting trains that would carry people to/from the station and Chapel Hill/Carrboro, Efland, Mebane, and other Orange County locations.  7.  An intercity rail station is usually compatible with commuter rail as soon as it is constructed.  Thoughtful planning by the town of Hillsborough could place enough compact, walkable, mixed-use urban fabric within the Boone/Collins tract that one day in the future, Hillsborough would have a neighborhood adjacent to a rail station that had significant TOD, as well as an increased job base for the town of Hillsborough.  With the historic district abutting the other central Hillsborough locations, developing TOD without conflicting with the historic district rules will be much more difficult.In sum, I believe Orange County should focus on the goal of funding and opening an intercity rail station at Boone/Collins as soon as possible, perhaps opening for service (which is already running through, just not slowing down) by sometime in 2011.  The second priorities should be careful thinking about what adjustments (if any) are needed to make the station compatiable with rush hour commuter rail service that is probably 5-10 years away at best.  On the development side, the focus should be on siting good parking facilities in a position convenient to the station that also serves the little league fields, and coming up with a small area plan that supports a vertically mixed-use, walkable, reasonably dense neighborhood near the station, with offices closer to the station and residential only portions of the neighborhood further away.Thanks to Adrian for keeping attention on this topic.

To me, one of the Hillsborough sites is the logical choice.  Efland and University Station are just too speculative.  Hillisborough has a water and sewer system and the area around the station will therefore be ripe for compatible uses.I think it is up to the Town of Hillsborough to decide the right location within their town, but any in-town site could be a good choice.

I think University Station has strengths and weaknesses.  I'd like to hear more thoughts and discussion on the issues before the task force, e.g.:Is it wise to expect an Amtrak depot to catalyze transit oriented development, or better to site in an area already developing as walkable?Are the NCRR (university rr) and STAC (15-501) proposals imminent and solid enough to be factors in site evaluation?Is framing the discussion as the "Hillsborough Station" discouraging the attention of the rest of OC?Before moving to Carrboro, I lived in Raleigh where the depot seems to be an undervalued resource, sited many years ago to be "out of the way".  An unfortunate siting is not easily corrected. I hope we do better than that station:

  • Station services consist only of a pair of vending machines--coke and potato chips
  • The most common heard question is, "Where can I get a sandwich or a coffee near here?" (The most common answer is, "You can't.")
  • No Triangle Transit service
  • VERY limited CAT bus service, ill-timed to catch the train.  E.g. the Piedmont pulls out at 7:00am; the first bus gets there at 7:19am.


sites seem to be about equidistance from where I live in Chapel Hill as the Durham Amtrak stop.  Any further out and going to Durham will still be quicker than going to a location in Orange County.

I've just posted a blog on blogs.dailytarheel.com about the task force's top site choice, which they released to Hillsborough and County Commissioners on Thursday night.  Read the post here: http://blogs.dailytarheel.com/?p=2488 - Evan 

CH Herald reports this morning that the panel chose the Collins site: http://heraldsun.southernheadlines.com/orange/10-1102669.cfm  (reg. needed)For those interested, here's a map of the proposed national high-speed rail network (I saw it on Rachel Maddow...) - some interesting gaps there but NC/SC/GA will be well served:  

The study panel's report is very well done.  Hats off to Tom Campanella and everybody else who worked on it.  It is clear the group understands in great detail the issues at play in station siting.  Now we can get working on actually building the station so we have a one-seat ride from Orange County to Capitol Hill in Washington and Madison Square Garden in NYC. Looking further into the future, another benefit of this report is that at least 1-2 of the unchosen sites (in particular the Efland stop) may be excellent future locations for park-and-ride oriented commuter rail service to Durham, RTP, and Raleigh.  

North Carolina submitted a preapplication last week for $4 billion in federal grants out of the $8 billion pot appropriated by Congress for high speed rail. (California asked for $22 billion of the $8 billion).  Anything not on the preapp can not be funded, now starts the winnowing out process nationwide. NC submitted 90 different projects in the proposal, five are in Orange County, all on the corridor from Raleigh to Charlotte. There were several funding requests for Orange County:new Hillsborough stop and station $7 millionbuild 3.9 miles of second track Mebane to Efland $22.6 millionUniversity Station mainline realignment, five miles of second track, realign five curves, build two new bridges, grade separate old NC10, close Greenbriar at-grade crossing $31 millioncurve realignment east of Efland and bridge replacement over 70/85 connector $18,8 millioncurve realignment west of Hillsborough and replace Eno River bridge $12 million. Noted as low priority

As part of its application for a share of the $8b in high speed rail funds, NCDOT formally asked the federal government last week for $5.3m to begin construction of a train station in Hillsborough in 2012 and bring it into service in 2015. The proposal would also close either the Hill or Bellevue grade crossing. See page 9 of the grant application

Allocations from the first $8billion in High Speed Rail funds will be announced today. NCs announcement will be at the Durham AMTRAK Depot at 1:15 pm.  NC is expected to get $520 million (though another report says the NC/VA joint application will get $620 million).   Another $2.5 billion has been appropriated for this year, with announcements on that funding coming in the Spring.From an email I just got:

The White House has announced that the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor (SEHSR) -- from Washington, DC south to Raleigh, Durham, and Charlotte -- is among the grant recipients of the President's high speed rail program initiative!High speed rail will speed Durham and Raleigh rail connections to Richmond, Washington DC and points north and to Greensboro, Charlotte, and points south.  The Administration will provide more specifics at an event this afternoon in Durham.

http://www.whitehouse.gov/files/documents/100128_1400-HSRAwards-Summary_FRA%20Revisions.pdf  no specifics about which 30 projects but here is more official info, specific projects will be announced later today:NC Raleigh - Charlotte $ 520 million Nearly 30 interrelated projects will be undertaken in order to increase top train speeds to 90 mph and double the number round trips along this corridor, including the purchase and rehabilitation of locomotives and cars, track upgrades, and station security improvementsNC Raleigh - Richmond $ 25 million ARRA grants will fund congestion mitigation.


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