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Wilmington transportation

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Hi! I'm not from Wilmington but have visited the city since I was young. While driving through recently, I noticed work being done at the end of I-140. Are they finally going to finish it. Also when I went to research it, it talked about their being plans for a cape fear skyway. Any details on either project would be appreciated. Also, let's bring some activity to this forum!!

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There is an interesting project currently being studied in Wilmington that would relocate the freight rail that accesses the port to the opposite side of the Cape Fear river, and eventually repurpose the existing rail lines in Wilmington as a trolley system.

Clearly the rail relocation portion, especially the new bridge over the river, would be costly, but the existing rail line through the city is ridiculous; it basically goes through every in-town neighborhood of Wilmington without so much as a single grade separation.

The trolley conversion idea is somewhere on the line between ambitious and fanciful; seems like a great idea on paper, but making it happen will be difficult given that the corridor is owned by CSX and they won't let it go for a song and a dance, and getting the money to actually build it will be a challenge.

page1_thumb_1161533438.jpg

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^ great find and a very interesting idea. A new rail bridge over the CF would certainly cost a fortune, but I could picture the state coughing up a large share of the necessary cash in an effort to make the port of Wilmington more competitive (e.g. faster and more reliable rail connections out). If NCDOT were sensible they would make their contribution contingent upon CSX gifting the state the intown ROW -- I don't think CSX has any local customers on those tracks anymore and its certainly a big maintenance headache.

The transit component cetainly isn't going to get money from the state until we have regime change, but the CSX tacks make up a surprisingly solid network for the city. A few small additions in the center of town and (ultimately) a leg out Kerr and Wrightsville ave to the beach (plus a ferry from downtown near the rail terminal to Carolina Beach) would make Wilmington a very accessible city. Transit (in theory) could be the thing that sets Wilmington apart from its more glamorous cousins in Charleston and Savannah. 

Edited by kermit

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Google maps aerials show at least two active freight customers along the northern leg of the trolley route. I suppose they could be served at night when trolleys aren't running. The idea of trading the new bridge for the old right-of-way does have merit.

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On 12/20/2016 at 8:49 AM, orulz said:

There is an interesting project currently being studied in Wilmington that would relocate the freight rail that accesses the port to the opposite side of the Cape Fear river, and eventually repurpose the existing rail lines in Wilmington as a trolley system.

Clearly the rail relocation portion, especially the new bridge over the river, would be costly, but the existing rail line through the city is ridiculous; it basically goes through every in-town neighborhood of Wilmington without so much as a single grade separation.

The trolley conversion idea is somewhere on the line between ambitious and fanciful; seems like a great idea on paper, but making it happen will be difficult given that the corridor is owned by CSX and they won't let it go for a song and a dance, and getting the money to actually build it will be a challenge.

page1_thumb_1161533438.jpg

This reminds me of a news story back in the late 80's early 90's about moving the state port to Eagle Island.  My opinion is had the city pushed this hard enough up in Rawlee then these hard decision would not have to be made now.  In typical NC fashion the bold and growth-minded vision was shut down for the conservative cost effective plan of just reforming the existing port.  Similar to the defunct super port that was to be built down river.  The impact of moving the state port terminal would have eliminated the need for a rail bridge across a wide river.  I'm no engineer but I do know a rail bridge that has to high enough to accommodate ship traffic has to be heavy, sturdy and cost a bunch.  Instead if the state port was on Eagle Island the rail connections across the Brunswick river could be lower or even filled in depending on the location.  Also, a rail/intermodal yard could have been built along with ample highway connections in Brunswick County prior to the suburban growth there. i am sure in hindsight the location of the state port probably was not the best choice.  Then not to move it or even build better facilities mainland side was even more of a head scratcher.  Oh yeah think of all the prime real estate that could have been reclaimed for commercial use as well.  Just my thoughts.

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On 12/20/2016 at 9:49 AM, orulz said:

There is an interesting project currently being studied in Wilmington that would relocate the freight rail that accesses the port to the opposite side of the Cape Fear river, and eventually repurpose the existing rail lines in Wilmington as a trolley system.

Clearly the rail relocation portion, especially the new bridge over the river, would be costly, but the existing rail line through the city is ridiculous; it basically goes through every in-town neighborhood of Wilmington without so much as a single grade separation.

The trolley conversion idea is somewhere on the line between ambitious and fanciful; seems like a great idea on paper, but making it happen will be difficult given that the corridor is owned by CSX and they won't let it go for a song and a dance, and getting the money to actually build it will be a challenge.

page1_thumb_1161533438.jpg

The rail realignment project still has some momentum. The article below has some vague talk of applying for an unspecified federal grant for the EIS and some preliminary engineering.  They mention an old $750 million figure for the cost of the freight realignment (as well as the possibility of a tunnel). But the article left me with the impression that no one is taking the costs of this project seriously. The article does not mention anything about transit following the freight realignment.

http://www.starnewsonline.com/news/20180709/trains-on-move-brunswick-pender-support-rail-realignment

 

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A tunnel is the only way to expand the capability of the port short of building from scratch on the other side of the river possibly Eagle Island.  This should have been done many years ago.

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On 8/20/2018 at 3:47 PM, NcSc74 said:

A tunnel is the only way to expand the capability of the port short of building from scratch on the other side of the river possibly Eagle Island.  This should have been done many years ago.

Yea, I agree. Moving the port to the other side of the river (Eagle Island would be an easy move, but Southport would be more attractive to shippers) is much more realistic than a new rail bridge across the lower Cape Fear.

Edited by kermit
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Wilmington received a $2 million grant from the FRA  to study switching the port’s freight rail realignment away from the through-town route onto a new bridge over the Cape Fear.

https://www.tillis.senate.gov/2019/6/tillis-burr-advocate-on-behalf-of-nc-to-secure-110-million-in-dot-grants

Glad to see this moving forward, the current CSX route to the port is a mess and the move would open up some outstanding transit opportunities on the current CSX row which would work really well in Wilmington.

If the state is going to pay for a new bridge the least CSX can do is gift the state their old ROW.

Edited by kermit
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Cool.  About 30 years late but cool.  Draw bridge obviously but I'm curious how high will it be. before the draw portion.

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It sounds like support for the port rail realignment project is building. Port City Daily is report's that all major steak holders are now in favor of moving freight out of the city by crossing the river. In addition, one of the designs for the replacement Memorial bridge includes rail (combining bridges might bring costs down significantly). 

https://portcitydaily.com/local-news/2020/01/19/the-latest-on-wilmington-rail-realignment-federal-grant-environmental-study-rail-bridge-option/

Nothing really new in the story but I am pleasantly surprised that this concept still has legs. It would be great news for the city, and might help the port (a little).

After spending several days staying beside the river in November I was surprised by how little water traffic there is north of the bridge.  It makes me think that a low-rise lift-span bridge might work fine for rail (particularly since the USCG has decided to move the Dilligance out of town).

In terms of fantasy scenarios, it would be nice if NCDOT purchased the Goldsboro-Wilmington tracks (they already own the southern portion of the route) and rebuilt it for Wilimington-Raleigh passenger rail -and- NS freight service (as a branch of the NCRR to Morehead City) to the port via the new rail bridge. I suspect CSX would be less than thrilled by the prospect of helping competition to serve a monopoly port but Wilmington is a pretty minor business line for them already and making the port more viable for the long term would be a useful outcome.

 

Edited by kermit
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NCDOT only owns the abandoned portion of the W&W subdivision from Wallace to Castle Hayne. They do not own or have any trackage rights in Wilmington or to the north of Wallace.  This proposal for a new Cape Fear crossing will be interesting to watch. 

NCDOT is funding major upgrades to the Wilmington Belt Line to improve intermodal service between Charlotte and Wilmington. The tracks between Davis Yard and the Port are being upgraded to Class 2 standards this year. 

Edited by Seaboard Fellow

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1 hour ago, Seaboard Fellow said:

NCDOT only owns the abandoned portion of the W&W subdivision from Wallace to Castle Hayne. They do not own or have any trackage rights in Wilmington or to the north of Wallace.  This proposal for a new Cape Fear crossing will be interesting to watch. 

NCDOT is funding major upgrades to the Wilmington Belt Line to improve intermodal service between Charlotte and Wilmington. The tracks between Davis Yard and the Port are being upgraded to Class 2 standards this year. 

Is Davis the yard in Navassa?

My bigger question (which I failed to spell out) was how attached is CSX to its stub-end feeder lines? (Specifically the former ACL trackage in Duplin and Wayne counties). Everybody says CSX is happy to sell lines if the price is right, I would think that a line with only hog-feed traffic, and few prospects for growth would be cheap? Would CSX never sell The stub line if it led to NS getting freight rights to the port of Wilmington? I am sure that CSX wants to avoid competition, but I can see a scenario where Wilmington port traffic falls enough that the current rail service becomes marginal, and port traffic would certainly improve if it had multiple railroads serving it (but I recognize this is naive).

For some reason expanding the Wilmington terminal railroad with the remaining CSX freight tracks in north New Hanover and then merging the organization with the NCRR makes sense to me (but I suspect that is only a foamer impulse).

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52 minutes ago, kermit said:

Is Davis the yard in Navassa?

My bigger question (which I failed to spell out) was how attached is CSX to its stub-end feeder lines? (Specifically the former ACL trackage in Duplin and Wayne counties). Everybody says CSX is happy to sell lines if the price is right, I would think that a line with only hog-feed traffic, and few prospects for growth would be cheap? Would CSX never sell The stub line if it led to NS getting freight rights to the port of Wilmington? I am sure that CSX wants to avoid competition, but I can see a scenario where Wilmington port traffic falls enough that the current rail service becomes marginal, and port traffic would certainly improve if it had multiple railroads serving it (but I recognize this is naive).

For some reason expanding the Wilmington terminal railroad with the remaining CSX freight tracks in north New Hanover and then merging the organization with the NCRR makes sense to me (but I suspect that is only a foamer impulse).

Yes, Davis Yard is in Navassa. 
 

The W&W Subdivision produces a lot of revenue for CSX.  NC is a national leader in the Pork Industry. The top 4 pork producing counties are Bladin, Sampson, Duplin, and Wayne. All of these counties are served by CSX https://www.nationalhogfarmer.com/livestock/north-carolina-pork-industry-continues-be-economic-powerhouse. A majority of the feed is brought in via rail. The port of Wilmington is growing both through the wood pellets industry (Enviva) but also through intermodal.  A majority of the major East Coast ports are “crowded” and Wilmington is handling some of the spill off.  Here is an article covering the new Queen City Express which offers same day service between Wilmington and Charlotte. https://www.thestate.com/news/state/north-carolina/article231659388.html
 

Strategically I don’t believe any railroad (or any company for that matter) would give up its competitive advantage. Morehead City won’t open up to CSX either. 

Edited by Seaboard Fellow
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