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 It's Needed:

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 2017 the regional population grew over 15%, compared to a national average of just 5% . The Port of Wilmington has also seen remarkable growth, especially to its container business which saw 26% 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 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 multi-modal needs of the region of tomorrow.  


On June 12, 2019 the Wilmington Rail Realignment project was announced as a recipient of up to $2 million in grant funds by the Federal Railroad Administration’s (FRA) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grant program. This grant requires a state or local match in the amount of $500,000, which will be furnished by NC DOT in $250,000 increments over two fiscal years.

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