Closed or Sealed, more than semantics

With all the impediments facing the South East High Speed Rail Corridor, one would not be amiss in thinking NCDOT would be all behind the success of the project, right? Well, as one begins to examine the various factions, sides and opinions, some very peculiar omissions and, um — misdirection begin to emerge. As everyone who keeps up with such things knows by now one of the major points of contention that threatens to steer or in fact scuttle the entire project are the closure of roadways which cross the intended route(s). I’ve been to the meetings, read the official papers and kept up with news/opinions. Most of the public comment on HSR, from Raleigh to Richmond, include concerns about potential disconnections via road closure. Well they should for within the current parameters road closures could have the opposite effect of what rail promises, enhanced connections and improved transportation options as well as critical, primary decisions on the route of the corridor. So why, I ask, or rather how, amid all the hoopla, has one key detail on that critical matter managed to have been exempt, conveniently forgotten – or worse, possibly downplayed deliberately for some purpose, say to obtain some sort of economic or policy leverage? A missing link is the sealed corridor concept.
Sealed corridors represent a potential solution to the most significant hurdle to SEHSP. A sealed corridor is one that can be cut off selectively from conflicting modes, cars and other trains via minimal infrastructural changes, so-called 4 quadrant gates and the like, which would obviate the unfortunate need for road closure. Four-quadrant gates are a variation on the familiar one per side gates, i.e. four per intersection, which discourage or render impossible the careless, drunk and/or foolhardy from crossing a busy track and getting creamed. Throughout the current period of public debate, I never heard of the sealed corridor concept. I first learned about the sealed corridors concept from a source outside of the current debate, very curious considering the origins and widespread utility of the idea.
From the Federal Railroad Administration’s High Speed Grade Crossing Guidelines:
The State of North Carolina has pioneered many of the subsequent advances on the North Carolina Railroad under the concept of a “Sealed Corridor.” NCDOT defines the concept as follows … redundant and/or unsafe crossings are consolidated through closure and/or grade separation and all remaining public crossings are equipped as appropriate with four quadrant gates, median separators and longer gate arms [my bold]
You read right. Suddenly a heretofore unknown detail offers a way out of the closure conundrum. I like to think of myself as fairly well informed but find it quite peculiar and somewhat suspicious that an advance wrought by a North Carolina agency is MIA from a debate — in the very state where said advances could stand to radically alter the end result. What do you think? What is even odder is that I was not the only one who was bereft of this important piece of data. Of all the coverage in the local news, only Bob Geary, a former colleague of mine at the Independent, included the detail; it was absent from all other news sources, the N&O and the myriad broadcast media, so it isn’t just me. I will go ahead and be bold and express the only two possibilties: the omission of the sealed corridor concept was either A LIE of omission or a ham-handed attempt to control the debate by some person or agency in a North Carolina government agency, read NCDOT or NCRR. Go ahead, boys and girls of the press, tear yourselves away from Lindsey Lohan, dig in and figure it out.
But there’s another detail lost in the mists of time that gives the guilty needle a twitch. Some of y’all might remember Triangle Transit’s early attempt to foster light rail in the Triangle. Some of the better informed still in possession of a memory: remember why light rail foundered? Give up? ‘Cause NCRR, like some petulant snot-nosed Trustifarian, refused to let anyone come and play in their sandbox aka the NCRR right of way. Well that seems like very odd behavior for a corporation, a railroad OWNED BY THE PEOPLE of North Carolina, actively preventing infrastructure advances in the very business they are in, namely providing passenger rail for its citizens. Were I to hazard a guess as to why, seems that like any other for-profit corporation, the NCRR wants to stack the deck in their favor, at the expense of reasonable alternatives, or maybe as my all-seeing brother claimed, it is simply for the small-minded expedience of an easy way to keep that pesky High Speed Rail out of their yard on the east side of Capital Boulevard.

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