Are you a rail project manager looking for a challenge? Wilmington, NC, wants to talk with you. The city is recruiting for a full-time project manager to oversee a complicated rail-realignment project involving both freight and light-rail.
It’s “a big step and shows the City’s intent to move this project forward,” Laura Padgett, Wilmington’s rail realignment coordinator, told the Port City Daily news website.
The project is an ambitious one. One part of the plan calls for rerouting existing freight rail lines by building a new, more direct line connecting Davis Rail Yard in Leland to the Port of Wilmington, and building a new rail bridge over the Cape Fear River.
The second part of the project would involve converting the freight rail lines that circle the city today into a new light-rail system.
But before construction begins, there are two major hurdles to jump.
The first is financing. Estimates are that the entire project will cost between $500 million and $1 billion. The city, county, the federal government, and the private sector will all need to contribute funds if the project is to happen.
Wilmington Planning Director Glenn Harbeck told Railway Track & Structures that the city applied in October for a $2 million grant from the Federal Railroad Administration’s Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Program. Those funds would cover preliminary engineering and as much as 30 percent of the environmental impact documentation required under the National Environmental Policy Act.
The second hurdle involves getting all of the rail interests in the area on board with the plan. Chief among those interests is CSX Transportation.
Early on in the planning of the Wilmington project, CSX seemed uninterested, according to the Port City Daily. But that has changed
Harbeck says CSX had a seat on the city’s 12-person task force overseeing the project. The Class 1 railroad has been supportive of the project, he said. Perhaps more importantly, CSX signed a letter of support for the CRISI grant.
A decision from the FRA on that grant is expected in February.