Rail Realignment Project

Downtown Wilmington

About the Project

The Rail Realignment Project will replace and improve the existing freight rail route between Navassa (Davis) Yard and the Port of Wilmington by creating a new, shorter route that no longer runs through some of Wilmington’s busiest streets and most densely populated areas. Once a new freight route is in operation, the city would work to repurpose the existing route for public use. The project will improve freight rail operations, public mobility, public safety, economic development, and quality of life in the region.

Why is this project important?

The Rail Realignment Project is a proactive, forward-looking effort. There are two main factors driving the need for the project – regional population growth and regional growth of freight by rail.

Population growth in the region is taking place at a rapid pace. Census statistics show that between 2010 and 2018 the regional population grew over 15 percent, compared to a national average of just 5 percent . The Port of Wilmington has also seen remarkable growth, especially to its container business, which saw 26 percent growth in twenty-foot equivalent units between 2017 and 2018.

As both population and freight by rail continue to grow, the more difficult it becomes to meet the needs of both with our current transportation infrastructure. By creating a new, shorter bypass route that no longer runs through some of Wilmington’s busiest streets and most densely populated areas, the Rail Realignment project will create a setup where the transportation needs of both the public and freight can be met well into the future. 

Why start now?

There are projects in different stages of early development today that will shape the transportation future of the region. These projects – which include the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge Replacement, South Front Street Widening and the Extension of Independence Boulevard – all intersect with the future of freight rail in the region. These projects should be considered alongside the future of freight rail access in the region. Infrastructure projects with the scope and magnitude of Rail Realignment, as well as those previously mentioned, take considerable time to implement. As such, the City of Wilmington has begun work on Rail Realignment to address the regional multi-modal needs of tomorrow.

What is the project status?

Study efforts pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) are underway. The study is expected to be conducted in three phases. The first phase will be a Screening Assessment, which identifies feasible alternatives for the project that should be considered in the study. For the second phase of the study, a more detailed Alternatives Analysis will be accomplished with the goal of identifying a Preferred Alternative amongst the feasible alternatives. For the third phase, the team will conduct an environmental review and perform preliminary engineering activities pursuant to NEPA guidelines and regulations. In all, the City and AECOM currently expect the NEPA process for Rail Realignment to be conducted over a two year period.