Road or Rail: Which one is cheaper?

November 26, 2007 7 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Jacksonville, you've been sold a bill of goods for too long. Right-of-way aside, which one is cheaper to construct... a single lane of road or a single line of rail?

North Carolina Railroad Track Improvements: Raleigh-Greensboro

East Durham - milepost H56.9- H59.1

Description: Build 10,400 feet of new track to create a passing siding in East Durham. As part of the project one half mile of Rigsbee Road will be relocated. The track also will be realigned and curves straightened (to allow for increased speeds up to 79 mph). The existing track will become the new siding when the new mainline track is built. Install two No. 20 turnouts to allow trains to travel faster (from 70 to 79 mph) through the siding.

Estimated Cost: $ 6.5 million

Construction Schedule:
Construction will begin in 2006.

Result: Building a new siding and straightening the curves will save 30 seconds of travel time, improve capacity and reliability of service.

1 mile = 5,280 feet
new 79 mph track = 10,400 feet or 1.97 miles

1.97 miles of new 79 mph track / $6,500,000 total construction costs = $3.3 million / mile.

West Durham (Funston) - milepost H47.8- H49.9

Description: Constructed a total of 12,500 feet of new 45 mph track. The existing siding became the mainline track, while the existing mainline became the new siding. Installed two No. 20 turnouts to allow trains to travel faster (from 10 to 45 mph) through the siding.

$ 3.6 million

Construction Schedule:
Design work began in November 2002 and was completed in January 2003. Construction began in April 2003 and was completed in November 2003.

Extending the siding and straightening the curve saves 30 seconds of travel time and improves reliability of service.

1 mile = 5,280 feet
new track = 12,500 feet or 2.37 miles

2.37 miles of new 45 mph track / $3,600,000 total construction costs = $1.5 million / mile.


44th Street Extention: JTA - Jacksonville, FL

Description: The 1,200 foot long two lane extention of 44th Street from Gateway mall to Golfair Blvd.  Project will include curbs and sidewalks.

Estimated Cost:
$1.08 million

Construction Schedule:
Construction scheduled to begin in 2009

1 mile = 5,280 feet
new road = 1,200 feet or 0.23 miles
1,200 feet x 4.4 = 5,280 feet or one mile

4.4 x $1.08 million = $4.75 million / mile



$1.5 million / mile = single line of 45 mph track (the S-Line would not need anything over 45 mph track)
$2.4 million / mile = a single 12'lane of asphalt, along with a 5' wide sidewalk***
$3.3 million / mile = single line of 79 mph track

***A typical newly constructed road will most likely consist of two lanes, thus:

$4.75 million / mile = new two lane road.

Laying rail is cheaper than constructing an asphalt road