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Rail Realignment Contract Moves Project Forward

By Christina Haley O'Neal, posted Apr 21, 2020
Aubrey Parsley, shown last year, is the city of Wilmington’s rail realignment project manager. (File photo)
A potential contract for engineering work on the Wilmington Rail Realignment will narrow down a route and give officials a better idea of the construction costs, said Aubrey Parsley, the city’s director of the project.

A $2.5 million contract to AECOM Technical Services of North Carolina Inc. for professional engineering services will be considered by Wilmington City Council during its meeting Tuesday night, according to a resolution on the city council's agenda.

The contract is also for services pursuant to compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for the rail realignment project, stated agenda documents.

Should council approve the measure, work within the contract could begin sometime in May, Parsley said.

In June 2019, the project was awarded a Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements Program (CRISI) grant to support environmental studies pursuant to NEPA and preliminary engineering up to 30% design, Parsley said in an email.

The federal award was for up to $2 million. For support with the nonfederal match, the city reached a reimbursement agreement with the N.C. Department of Transporation for up to $500,000, he said.

The $2.5 million professional services agreement with AECOM, if approved by council Tuesday, will cover the environmental and preliminary engineering work under the grant agreement, Parsley said.

It will take several years to complete the pending contract work once the award is approved.

It is estimated that environmental studies, which are conducted in collaboration with several different state and federal agencies, will take two years to complete, Parsley said. It will take an additional year for preliminary engineering, once a preferred route for the project is selected.

Once the contract work is complete, the city will have a good idea of where the rail line would be located, 30% of engineering design plans and a better idea of how much the project will cost, he said.

“It’s too soon to give an overall project timeline,” Parsley said. “Once all this is wrapped up within this contract period, we will certainly be working closely with CSX to determine what agreements would need to be met to move this project forward and also continuing to explore opportunities for partnerships and funding at all levels; federal, state, local and private.”

Previous cost estimates, part of a feasibility study that wrapped in 2017, put the project at about $630 million.

“I think it’s important to note, as it relates to funding, we are keeping an eye on any and all stimulus opportunities here to advance the project forward," Parsley said. "We will see what comes of it. It certainly is a regionally significant project. We’re really excited to advance the work on it.”
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