Council To Consider Grant Funds For Wilmington Rail Realignment Project

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Jan 17, 2020
City council could make funds available next week that would allow the Wilmington Rail Realignment project to move forward.

Wilmington City Council is slated to consider several items about the project's funding that involve agreements with the Federal Railroad Administration for $2 million and the N.C. Department of Transportation for $500,000, according to city of Wilmington documents.

The $2 million in FRA grant funding was announced for the rail realignment last summer, and in the fall, NCDOT agreed to fund up to $500,000 for a match over two fiscal years. Tuesday's measures allow the city to officially enter into agreements with the granting agencies and appropriate the money.

The money will be used for the project's preliminary engineering and environmental studies. The city is also contributing resources valued at $260,000 for project and financial management, Aubrey Parsley, the city's director of rail realignment, said Friday.

The Wilmington Rail Realignment aims to build a more efficient and direct freight route to the Port of Wilmington and to repurpose the city’s existing railways for alternative transportation. The current railroad tracks within the city include 32 railroad crossings, making for slow train travel and impeding city road traffic.

The project would study a new route for the rail lines that would connect the Navassa CSX Transportation servicing yard (the Davis Yard) with the Port of Wilmington with a new rail bridge crossing the Cape Fear River.

The project’s feasibility study came up with estimated costs of about $630 million for the project, “but that was a feasibility study and with this work coming up we will be able to come up with a fine-tuned number that is more current," Parsley said.

The city is currently advertising for interest and qualifications from consulting firms for the preliminary work. The proposals process is expected to end in mid-February with a selection of one or more consultants in March.

“The interest from the engineering and consultant community has been great. We expect a good number of submittals from this work and are very encouraged by that,” Parsley said. 

Finding the right team to perform the work on behalf of the city is the near-term focus, he said. The team will also include collaboration with the city, transportation officials as well as the Wilmington port.

But whomever the city may choose for the team, Parsley said that plans are to begin the work late in the first quarter or early second quarter this year.

“We are very excited to get this work underway. This grant award was a huge accomplishment for the city and a tremendous validation from the FRA and NCDOT," Parsley said. "This will certainly be a formative year for this project."
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