New Amtrak proposal shows passenger rail from Wilmington to Asheville

Proposed Amtrak routes show a connection between Wilmington and Asheville
Updated: Apr. 1, 2021 at 1:57 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Right now, taking a trip from the beach to the mountains requires a car with a full tank of gas or a plane ticket; however, a newly released map from Amtrak shows what many in Wilmington have called for in the past: passenger rail service connecting Wilmington to the rest of the state.

Wilmington has its share of railroads, but, those tracks are currently used for freight trains delivering goods to and from the port. However, in response to President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan, Amtrak has released its own plan to help connect cities like Wilmington with others across the country.

“President Biden released his American Jobs Plan on Wednesday that included plans for infrastructure investment, economic recovery, climate change, and social equity, and $80 billion designated specifically for rail,” according to a press release from Amtrak.

The new map shows a new service route connecting Wilmington with Raleigh, Greensboro, and eventually Asheville, providing people across the state with an alternative option for intrastate travel from the coast. Currently, Amtrak passenger services operate in Raleigh and other larger cities in the state but leave most Eastern North Carolina out.

It might be an ambitious plan, but it’s something Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo says he would love to see happen.

“I’m ecstatic to hear that Amtrak feels that this is something they would like to see happen,” said Saffo. “We’ve been definitely talking about this in the city of Wilmington for a number of years. The city preserved, working with the department of transportation, the rail bed there between Third and Fourth Streets in anticipation that one day we would have rail come back to the city of Wilmington.”

The North Carolina Department of Transportation also weighed in on the proposals from both the president and Amtrak.

“We appreciate that President Biden recognizes the great importance of transportation infrastructure in regards to getting people access to jobs, health care and educational opportunities. That includes not only maintaining what is already here but also expanding the system and welcoming new innovations, including expanded rail service. We will follow his proposal as it makes its way through Congress,” said assistant director of communications Jamie Kritzer.

Obviously, there will need to be improvements made to the infrastructure before this could become a reality, but Saffo said it’s something that is doable.

“We know where the bottlenecks are, we know what needs to be done, we’ve been looking at this for a number of years,” he said.

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