07/11/05 — Rail could come through Goldsboro

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Rail could come through Goldsboro

By Matt Shaw
Published in News on July 11, 2005 1:45 PM

The N.C. Department of Transportation recommended today that passenger train service be restored through Goldsboro as soon as feasibly possible.

At briefings today, DOT officials unveiled the findings of a several-year study of the possibilities for passenger rail service in eastern North Carolina.

DOT was expected to recommend a route for daily Raleigh-to-Wilmington passenger service, but the study instead endorses two routes -- one through Fayetteville and the other through Goldsboro, including stops in Mount Olive and Wallace.

State transportation officials also said they intend to seek funding to restore depots along the two railways, including Goldsboro's Union Station.

DOT also will work to connect commuter rail service from Raleigh and the Research Triangle at least as far east as Selma.

The Southeastern North Carolina Passenger Rail Study "lays out almost everything we've been working for," said David Quick, a Goldsboro businessman and member of the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's railroad task force.

The holdup will be how soon the N.C. General Assembly could provide funding.

DOT estimates that it would cost as much as $190 million to improve and rebuild the tracks on the Goldsboro route. That includes between $50-$67 million to restore tracks that were removed during the 1980s between Wallace and Castle Hayne. DOT does still own the right-of-way on the route.

A passenger train on the route would run at an operating loss of as much as $2 million a year.

But DOT's study also shows that the restored line would attract at least $200 million in investment in eastern North Carolina over the next 20 years because of better freight service. The line would primarily serve the port of Wilmington, giving it a direct northern route to rail service to the northeastern U.S.

The Fayetteville route would cost nearly $130 million. It could cost as much as $2.6 million to operate.

The study had been expected to pick either the Goldsboro or Fayetteville route, but the study said both are needed, given the rising threat of terrorism and the ever-increasing cost of gas.

"The threat of terrorism and the attacks in September 2001 heighten the awareness of security issues and underscore the need for alternate transportation options," the study says. "Growing traffic, highway congestion, rising fuel costs, and air pollution are increasingly critical issues for North Carolina and many parts of the country."

Patrick Simmons, director of DOT's Rail Division, and David King, DOT deputy secretary for transit, were scheduled to meet with Wayne County officials at noon today.