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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A half billion dollar railroad modernization project is expected to be a game-changer for passengers and freight going from Charlotte and Raleigh and beyond.

It's called the Piedmont Improvement Program. Federal railroad officials were in town Thursday touting the progress.

"Trip times will be reduced, reliability will be enhanced and the trips will be competitive to air and auto travel while allowing for a much higher level of productivity," said Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo.

The railroad improvements are expected to be finished in 2017.

Amtrak will add two additional trips from Charlotte to Raleigh.

"That gets us the five round trips at 79 miles per hour. You're buying capacity for more reliable service and buying improved safety and mobility," said NCDOT Rail Division Director Paul Worley.

Thirty-two miles of new parallel track is coming as well to help move freight.

Szabo says we'll see an increase of four billion tons of freight needing to be moved from point A to point B in the next decade.

"Unless you want our highways to become overwhelmed with truck traffic, freight rail is going to have to play an ever increasing role."

Twenty-three public railroad crossings will be eliminated, and with them, the potential for train and vehicle collisions.

More than a dozen new bridges will take trains over or under traffic, meaning you can say goodbye to some stop arms and long waits.

High speed rail, going 90 miles an hour, is still years away.

So too is moving the current rail yard from North Tryon into uptown near Trade Street.

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