12/18/04 — Missing link: State should reconnect rail line to Wilmington

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Missing link: State should reconnect rail line to Wilmington

A legislative committee will recommend that the railroad track between Wallace and Castle Hayne be reconnected. It is good advice.

Restoration of the historic Goldsboro-to-Wilmington route could help stimulate the economy in eastern North Carolina. The committee, which met Wednesday in Raleigh, estimated the impact at $200 million over 20 years.

If this were the business-rich Research Triangle, the Greensboro Triad area or the Charlotte area, that might sound like peanuts. Down here in the East, however, a couple of hundred million is a lot of dollars.

That is precisely why the state, when it plans to invest in infrastructure, should look to the East and to the far West, where well paying jobs are similarly scarce. These are the areas that should be the focus of new development, not the areas where over-development is already straining the roads, schools and utilities.

The cost of reinstalling the 27-mile stretch of rail line is $81 million, according to estimates by the state Department of Transportation, which recommended it.

The rejuvenated CSX railroad to Wilmington could be important to existing and prospective businesses and industries, but it might be even more vital. The military as well as private interests could benefit from a rail link to the port. And certainly the military is among eastern North Carolina’s greatest financial assets.

The State Ports Authority would see an increase in activity at its Wilmington port and might help pay for the repairs.

Rep. Louis Pate is co-chairman of the committee that will make the recommendation to the General Assembly.

The committee will hold its next meeting Jan. 11. At that time, it will probably discuss a proposal to initiate passenger rail service between Raleigh and Wilmington. A route would be selected from two possibilities — one that would take it through Goldsboro and another that would take it through Fayetteville. If the Goldsboro route were chosen, it could be used only if the Wallace-Castle Hayne link were restored.

Published in Editorials on December 18, 2004 11:11 PM