WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - After years of study and planning, Wilmington’s rail realignment project is finally gaining steam.
On Tuesday, Wilmington City Council will hear an update on the measure to redirect freight rail traffic away from the city and use the existing infrastructure for public transportation.
Former city council member Laura Padgett said this progress report will detail the minor setbacks the task force experienced thanks to Hurricane Florence, the federal government shutdown and the 2018 midterm elections. While none of those directly affected the project, they did slow down those working on it, as well as the federal grant process.
Padgett described the last several months as a “quiet time” for the project, but not a still time. She said development firms have already given notice they are interested in participating.
The city has also hired a rail realignment project manager, who will start this summer and be in charge of all aspects of the project.
City planning director Glenn Harbeck said like any major project, such as the Interstate 140 interchange, or the Cape Fear Crossings project, the process takes longer — and more money — than people may realize.
“These projects that can make a big difference in the community do have a large price tag to them," Harbeck said. "I think most people you talk to, they like the project, they think it’s a great idea, they wonder why we didn’t do it yesterday. But the question is, trying to find the funding to make it happen.”
Harbeck said the grant Wilmington has applied for to pay for the project is very competitive, so if it falls through, they have others waiting in the wings.
Tuesday’s meeting will also include a presentation recommending the city accept the donation of 64 acres of land along Highway 421 for a new athletic complex.
Cape Fear Youth Soccer Association wants to donate the land and form a public-private partnership with the city.
Executive Director Carson Porter said the city will own the land and the association, otherwise known as the Wilmington Hammerheads Youth FC, will be in charge of the day to day operations, maintenance and upkeep.
Porter said the facility would be usable for a variety of sports besides soccer, including football, disc golf and lacrosse.
A new athletic complex was part of the 2016 parks and recreation bond approved by voters, but Porter said by accepting the donated land, the city could put more money into the facility, rather than having to buy land elsewhere, meaning the city’s dollar will go further.
The council will also consider:
- New equipment for the Wilmington Police Department
- A special use permit to allow for a new juvenile detention center
- The Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget