"The city grew up around the rail yard by Howell Street," said Public Works Director Wes Anderson. "There was never an easy way for southbound trains to turn east and vice versa.
"As a result, rail cars have had to block several important roads as they maneuvered into position to make the turn, causing major delays," he said. "Once this phase of the project is done, trains will be able to make that turn much faster and easier, and those long delays should mostly be a thing of the past."
City officials estimate 85 percent of traffic delays will be eliminated with the installation of this connector track.
The project has been in the works for years and is a partnership among the city, the N.C. DOT, CSX Transportation, Norfolk Southern and Carolina Coastal Railway. Those entities are funding the project, aided by a $967,000 federal grant received largely through the efforts of Rep. Walter B. Jones Jr., R-N.C.
Construction is slated to begin in early December and should be completed by mid-March. The entire railroad switching yard will eventually be moved north of the city off N.C. 903. The connector is a preliminary fix.