Wilmington, N.C., will soon be getting a railroad line out of the way.
After years of planning and the release of a study officials have decided to go with Alternative 2 in what is expected to be a billion-dollar rail realignment project.
The city no longer wants the rail route to interfere with traffic and hopes to increase safety with the elimination of at-grade rail crossings. The project also will provide a more direct access to rail.
Alternative 2 involves tying into the Wilmington Terminal Railroad line at Greenfield Street. The route will travel the west side of South Front Street and cross a bridge over the Cape Fear River before avoiding a U.S. 421 highway interchange and continuing north. The line would then connect to a CSX line, about 0.4 miles west of U.S. 421, en route to the Davis Yard.
There are 32 at-grade crossings associated with the existing rail line, and after the project is complete there will only be one at Dawson Street. Six design alternatives were considered before officials short-listed the process down to two.
Alternative 2 also will make use of a rail bed on Eagles Island that has not been used for almost a century. Because it would be on elevated ground at that location the new tracks would limit disturbances to water and natural resources. The winning choice seems to be the best when it comes to the environment overall.
Environment review for the project has been going on for the past 18 months and will most likely take another year before it is complete. The city wants 30% of the engineering work for the rail realignment done by 2023.