Sanford Mayor Rebecca Wyhof Salmon speaks on Tuesday at Depot Park as Lisa Mathis, N.C. Department of Transportation Board member, looks on. The event was to announce a federal grant to help develop multimodal transportation hubs in communities along the S-Line railway.

Local and state officials gathered at Depot Park in downtown Sanford Tuesday to celebrate a federal grant that’s seen as the biggest step yet in bringing passenger rail back to a corridor passing through town known as the “S-Line.

Sanford is one of seven cities and towns along the S-Line (others are Norlina, Henderson, Franklinton, Youngsville, Wake Forest, and Apex). Tuesday’s event was to announce a $3.4 million federal grant for “planning and preliminary design of mobility hubs” – in short, it will lay the groundwork for a train station in downtown Sanford that would connect to Raleigh and other points north.

The money can be spent, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, on activities including “feasibility and site assessments for all of the communities and National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) compliance and preliminary engineering.”

“This RAISE grant is a critical cornerstone for advancing regional multimodal transportation in these communities, preparing for passenger rail service from Sanford to Norlina, and strengthening our state’s rail connection to Virginia,” said Sanford resident Lisa Mathis, who is also a member of the North Carolina Board of Transportation. “I am so pleased to see years of hard work paying off and our federal partners recognizing the importance of improving transportation infrastructure to get people to where they need to go. I am excited that we are one step closer to realizing our dream of bringing passenger rail service back to this corridor.”

S-Line Map. Source: NCDOT

Joey Hopkins, chief operating officer for NCDOT, said rail service to and from downtown Sanford is a boost to the community – and the state as a whole – in many ways.

“The S-Line is a significant project not just for North Carolina, but the entire Southeast,” he said. “Connectivity enhances mobility options, improves social equity, increases the resilience of the transportation network, improves the environment, and even spurs economic growth. These hubs will provide multimodal connections in each community. They will serve as an entry point and ensure vibrant and thriving communities for future generations. The mobility hubs will be a place where residents can hop off the train and then catch a bus or walk to a local restaurant or bike to work.”

For more information about the S-Line, visit this NCDOT webpage.