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City Officials To Hear Rail Realignment Update

By Cece Nunn, posted Feb 17, 2017
City officials will hear an update Tuesday on an effort to study the feasibility of relocating rail lines from within the city limits to across the Cape Fear River.

Laura Padgett, a former city councilwoman and chairwoman of the Mayor’s Task Force for Rail Realignment, will provide an update at the City Council's Tuesday night meeting, which starts at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall.

"We'll be talking about some overviews of some of the preliminary reports that we're getting with the understanding that it's not final," Padgett said Friday.

She said Tuesday's presentation will also aim to answer any questions city officials have. Last year, consulting firm Moffatt & Nichol was selected to conduct the feasibility study.
 
Glenn Harbeck, the city's director of planning, development and transportation, has said moving the rail line would improve access by freight trains directly into the Port of Wilmington, enhance economic development in the region, ease traffic congestion on area streets, and, by repurposing the existing rail for a greenway and possible trolley line, encourage major new investments in underused properties adjoining the rail.

Padgett said the feasibility study is expected to be complete by the end of March and ready to share with the public by April. That's when an estimated cost and other more detailed information would be available. 

The cost of the study itself is being shared by a partnership between the city, the N.C. Department of Transportation and the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The public can learn more about the rail realignment effort in upcoming drop-in sessions: 5-7 p.m. Monday at Leland Town Hall, 102 Town Hall Drive; and 5-7 p.m. Wednesday at Wilmington City Hall, 102 N. Third St. 

Padgett said she hopes the cost, or at least what might not be paid for by state funding or federal grants, could be covered by a possible public-private partnership.

"In my opinion, that's a way to accomplish this more quickly than making it entirely a public facility," Padgett said.

She added, "Building a road and other publicly financed facilities for transportation is generally a 15-year process, on average, sometimes many more years than that. On the other hand, private enterprise tends to want to make money sooner rather than later and generally moves it on a little quicker."
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