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At the July 17, 2018 council meeting, former councilmember and rail realignment project coordinator Laura Padgett presented an update to the Wilmington City Council on the project.

According to city planning officials, moving the rail line would have several benefits, including: improving access by freight trains directly into the Port of Wilmington, enhancing economic development in the region, easing traffic congestion on area streets, and, by repurposing the existing rail for a greenway and possible trolley line, incentivize major new investments in underutilized properties adjoining the rail.


Background

In August 2015, the Wilmington City Council heard a presentation about potential advantages for economic development and community growth if the CSX rail line that currently runs through the city were to be relocated just across the Cape Fear River.

Glenn Harbeck, the city’s Director of Planning, Development and Transportation, gave the presentation and pointed out that the region will grow significantly over the next 25 years. According to Harbeck, moving the rail line would ease traffic congestion and make it easier to move around the city without as many cars, while also accommodating expected growth and truck traffic at the Port of Wilmington.

Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo appointed a task force made up of key stakeholders to help guide the effort during its early stages. Former City of Wilmington Councilmember Laura Padgett was selected to chair the Mayor's Task Force on Rail Realignment. In January, 2016, Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo announced the appointment of Leland Mayor Pro-Tem Pat Batleman to the task force. She will serve on the task force to represent the Transportation Advisory Committee/Metropolitan Planning Organization, a partner in the funding for the feasibility study and the potential development of the project.   

In April, 2016, the Wilmington City Council approved a feasibility study conducted by Moffat & Nichol to get more specific and detailed information before formalizing any potential proposal. The feasibility study addresses impacts of the project, including safety issues along the current rail line, economic benefits of realigning the track across the river more directly to the Port of Wilmington, financing and environmental effects. The cost of the study was shared by a partnership between the City of Wilmington, the NC DOT and the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

On June 6, 2017, Padgett presented the findings of the feasibility study. The Wilmington City Council officially accepted the study at their meeting on July 18, 2017.

At their Jan. 9, 2018 meeting, the Wilmington City Council appointed Padgett as coordinator of the Rail Realignment Project. The action reinforces the City’s commitment to continue leading the initiative forward.

More information

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