Spencer Franklin

Spencer Franklin
Carolinas Office Leader

“Raleigh is introducing multimodal solutions regionwide,” Franklin says. “From intercity rail projects and bus rapid transit (BRT) corridors to major toll roads, the growing metropolitan area is committed to offering diverse transportation options to support its growing population.”

Wake County, home to more than 1 million people, is seeing new arrivals from across the country, he adds, bringing with them the pressing needs for the infrastructure investment the capital city is undertaking, and Franklin says it marks a pivotal period for the local AEC community as agencies collaborate to deliver those connected transportation solutions.

As a whole, the city is seeing significant growth, he says, prompting a major focus on sustainable development that aligns with the community’s values. With the integration of multimodal transportation options, Raleigh is also tapping into infrastructure required to implement electric and autonomous vehicles via initiatives aimed at enhancing mobility and reducing environmental impact to facilitate Raleigh’s growth in a responsible and dynamic way.

“The rate of growth we’re experiencing in Raleigh is such an important opportunity,” says Franklin. “It is essential for collaboration across key sectors—education, government, transportation and beyond—to ensure we grow sustainably.”

City Scoop Raleigh

That growth has been Raleigh’s modus operandi for the past decade, Franklin adds, with the local transportation market adeptly matching its trajectory. Federal investment for intercity passenger rail is catalyzing connections to the capital city, with funded studies underway for seven new intercity passenger rail corridors connecting Raleigh with Charlotte as well as with more underserved parts of the state and connections with the Northeast Corridor.

ENR reported late last year on $8 billion in U.S. passenger rail investment from the Federal Railroad Administration, including $1 billion to construct a new passenger rail route from Raleigh to Richmond, Va., the program’s single-largest award.

The North Carolina Dept. of Transportation completed its environmental impact statement for the 162-mile corridor in 2015, which is intended to improve regional safety, mobility and connectivity and provide alternatives to congested Interstates 85 and 95.

“If you fly into Raleigh today, you will see a landscape bustling with commercial, industrial and residential construction.”
—Spencer Franklin, Carolinas Office Leader, HNTB

Franklin calls the project “a game changer for East Coast travel,” set to cut passenger train travel time between the two cities from nearly five hours to two-and-a-half hours, with planned speeds of 110-plus miles per hour.

HNTB is leading what Franklin says is the most complex element of the program: the line through downtown Raleigh and north to Richmond.

Tech giants like Apple and Google have recently chosen to establish campuses in Raleigh’s Research Triangle Park, underscoring the city’s technology and research landscape and helping local university students make the decision to stay in town and fuel the city’s growth.

“If you fly into Raleigh today, you will see a landscape bustling with commercial, industrial and residential construction,” he says. “As the city experiences rapid expansion, the construction industry plays a crucial role in ensuring that infrastructure development keeps pace with growth.”

Dodge data for Raleigh forecasts a nearly $1-billion increase in construction starts in 2025, with the largest increase, $633 million, in residential starts.

Total non-building starts, which includes transportation, utility and other public work, is set to increase by a little more than $100 million in 2025, though all sectors underneath that umbrella, save highways and bridges, are set to drop. Dodge forecasts a $116-million increase for highway and bridge starts, for an estimated total of $720 million.

HNTB, celebrating its 40th anniversary in Raleigh this year, is also working on GoRaleigh, one of the first bus rapid transit programs in the state. The firm is providing final design for two of the four corridors set to connect Raleigh with neighboring communities. HNTB is also partnering with NCDOT and the N.C. Turnpike Authority on the Complete 540 project, a $2.3-billion effort to connect communities around the Triangle—the largest investment in highway infrastructure in NCDOT history.

Additionally, NCDOT announced in February that a joint venture of Flatiron Construction Corp. and Fred Smith Co. is advancing the $449.9-million Phase 2, which Franklin says broke ground in May and is set to open in late 2028.