Completely new platforms, accessed by tunnels from the station building were built. Each of the two platforms now serves two tracks — one pair for the north-south line; one pair for the H line. So, this station can now theoretically handle four trains simultaneously, though even two trains at a time are still a rarity.
A section of single track south of Greensboro, between that city and High Point, long a bottleneck on that route, is having its second track restored. (Yes, that section was once double-track, but one track had been removed as a cost-saving measure during the period of railroad decline in the mid 20th century.)
What does all have to do with running commuter trains?
Well, the state currently has two Amtrak trains daily in each direction between Raleigh and Charlotte: the Raleigh-Charlotte Piedmont and the Charlotte-New York City Carolinian. A third mid-day frequency has long been under consideration and will likely get an additional push in the next two years.
So, as the frequency of trains in this corridor increases, the distinction between intercity and commuter traffic will also be blurred.
But, let’s say that you want to run commuter trains between Raleigh and Durham, two cities about 20 miles apart and part of an important economic region known as the Research Triangle. A commuter rail project proposed by the regional Triangle Transit Authority (TTA), which called for the TTA to build its own double-track line between Durham and Raleigh in the NCRR corridor (200 feet wide at most locations) foundered for both financial and political reasons. (The design failed to qualify for federal funding.)
Raleigh-Durham is already partly double track. Between Raleigh and Cary (an intermediate point) NS and CSX have paired tracks which are jointly operated. That segment just received a major signal upgrade this year, allowing for more efficient use of either track in either direction by trains.
Just east of downtown Durham, you have the new two-mile long Durham siding. Add a second track between the east end of that siding and Cary, a distance of about 14 miles, and you now have double track for the entire route from Durham to downtown Raleigh, one of the primary needs for operating commuter traffic.
(Station designs for the aborted TTA project, including park-and-ride lots, could still be used.) If only some of the commuter trains go beyond Raleigh on the east end and Durham on the west end, that would probably be feasible, too, without undue interference with NS freight traffic.
Want to run commuter rail in the Greensboro area? Both the north-south line and the H line are double track for a substantial segment in each direction, and, by the end of the year, the line to the southwest will be double track to High Point and beyond.
Yes, many details would still have to be worked out between the operators of the rail transit and NS, but much of the infrastructure is already in place, though Greensboro’s downtown would have to attract more businesses to make such a project reality.
NCRR president Saylor sees the future of the NCRR as being mostly double-track between Raleigh and Charlotte at some point in the future, though he hasn’t indicated when that future might arrive.
Ironically, one key remaining section of single track on that part of the NCRR is just northeast of Charlotte. But, there, too, the NCRR has the right of way for an additional track. And, with Charlotte’s growth and strong support for rail transit (the Lynx light rail system opened last year and voters rejected an attempt to repeal a local transit tax), that second track may not be so far off.