A project city leaders once considered beyond reach is now inching closer to reality. On Tuesday Jan. 21, Wilmington City Council members approved $2.5 million in grants to fund the Rail Realignment initiative. The money, which comes from NCDOT and the Federal Railroad Administration, marks a major milestone for project leaders and supporters.
The Rail Realignment Project would replace existing rail access between Navassa and Wilmington with a new, shorter route. It would also repurpose the current route for alternate public transportation, like a passenger rail, trolley line, or bike and pedestrian paths.
These goals come at a high price -- according to a 2017 Feasibility Report conducted by the city and NCDOT, total project costs could be in the $700 million range or more. But Wilmington spokesperson Dylan Lee says so far, the concept has received positive feedback:
“It benefits everyone and all people who are involved with it have become stakeholders, agencies, and organizations. So it really is an example of the community coming together to work towards something that, while it will take a while, if we can get it done will just be completely transformative. We have a long way to go, but tonight represents a major step.”
The grant money will be used for preliminary engineering and a required National Environmental Protection Act review. The city is currently working towards selecting a consulting firm with experience in railroad engineering.