Government approves high-speed rail through N.C., Va.

Two federal agencies have approved preliminary plans for a high-speed rail system between Charlotte, N.C., and Washington, D.C.

North Carolina and Virginia will begin in early 2003 environmental and engineering studies needed to garner $1.5 billion for the project from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The U.S. DOT chose five routes in 1992 for high-speed rail service. The Charlotte-Washington, D.C., was the only one the Federal Railroad Administration and Federal Highway Administration approved last week. A study also shows the route is the only one of the five that could pay its operating expenses through rider fares.

The route would connect with existing high-speed rail systems in Washington, D.C., allowing passengers to continue on to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston. Trains would average 85 to 90 mph, taking Charlotte passengers to Washington in 6 hours, 14 minutes.