07/10/05 — Rail route news expected

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Rail route news expected

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 10, 2005 2:00 AM

Transportation officials will announce next week their preferred route for Raleigh-to-Wilmington passenger train service.

The N.C. Department of Transportation has scheduled meetings Monday with the press and local officials in Goldsboro and Fayetteville. A third briefing will be Tuesday in Wilmington.

The briefings will reveal the findings of the "Southeastern North Carolina Passenger Rail Study," which DOT has been preparing since 2001.

Patrick Simmons, director of DOT's Rail Division, and David King, DOT deputy secretary for transit, plan to unveil the recommendation in Fayetteville at 8 a.m., then travel to Goldsboro for a noon meeting at the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce.

DOT Secretary Lyndo Tippett is not expected to attend any of the briefings, according to his spokesperson.

Any decision on passenger train service would be made by the N.C. General Assembly. Funding would not be likely for at least a few years.

DOT has been considering restoring passenger rail service to Wilmington since at least 1999. It first looked at a Charlotte-to-Wilmington route, but surveys of Wilmington residents showed they were more interested in travelling to Raleigh and connecting to Amtrak's trains to the northeastern U.S.

In May 2001, the Rail Division announced it was considering two Raleigh-to-Wilmington routes -- one via Goldsboro and the other through Fayetteville. Since then, DOT has done more in-depth studies of the two options.

Both routes would start in Raleigh and go to Selma.

The Fayetteville option would go along tracks that roughly parallel Interstate 95 to Lumberton, then make a 90-degree turn to the east. Stops could also include Pembroke and Navassa. The route is about 188 miles.

The other option would be to go through Goldsboro, Mount Olive, Warsaw, Magnolia, Rose Hill, Wallace, Burgaw and Castle Hayne en route to Wilmington. The route is about 132 miles.

Railroad tracks no longer exist between Wallace and Castle Hayne, but the N.C. Rail Division has already asked the N.C. General Assembly to restore them as an economic boost to southeastern North Carolina.