Rail Realignment

The rail realignment project could have an influence on the city’s historic fabric. We’re keeping up to speed on it and hope you will, too.

The City of Wilmington’s Rail Realignment Project proposes the replacement and improvement of the existing freight rail route between Navassa (Davis) Yard and the Port of Wilmington by creating a new, shorter route. Once a new freight route is in operation, the City has proposed repurposing the existing route for public use. HWF fully supports the City of Wilmington’s rail realignment project—so long as it is accomplished without undue adverse effects on historic resources. 

Next Steps:

From now until July 26th, the public is invited to provide feedback on the draft Alternatives Analysis Report by visiting the City of Wilmington’s virtual open house at this link. Additionally, two zoom sessions with project engineers will occur on Tuesday, July 6th from 4-6 PM and Monday, July 19 from 5-7 PM.  HWF encourages its members and supporters to submit feedback during these open houses and zoom sessions. As an organization dedicated to protecting the irreplaceable historic resources of the Lower Cape Fear, HWF will continue to advocate for a rail realignment corridor that minimizes direct and indirect impacts on the Wilmington National Register Historic District and cultural resources on Eagles Island. 

Wilmington Rail Realignment Corridor Screening Report

In January of 2021, AECOM released the Wilmington Rail Realignment Corridor Screening Report. On March 24, 2021, HWF’s Executive Director Travis Gilbert sent a letter to Mr. Aubrey Parsley, Director of Rail Realignment. To read the letter in full, click here.

Wilmington Rail Realignment Alternatives Analysis Report

On June 28, 2021, AECOM released the Wilmington Rail Realignment Alternatives Analysis Report draft for the City of Wilmington and Federal Railroad Administration. The Alternatives Analysis is the second of three reports in the project’s study efforts pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). This report helps identify a preferred alternative for the realignment of an existing CSX Transportation freight rail line that traverses through the City of Wilmington. 

The draft Alternatives Analyses Report recommends that “Alternative 1” and “Alternative 2” contend as the preferred alternative for the realignment of the CSX freight rail line. “Alternative 1” and “Alternative 2” differ largely north of the US 74/17/76 highway corridor, with the “Alternative 1” corridor being farther west than “Alternative 2.” Both “Alternative 1” and “Alternative 2” cross the Cape Fear River just south of the current Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and are located west of South Front Street when entering the Port of Wilmington. 

Each of these alternatives potentially affects 18 acres within the Wilmington National Register Historic District and 20 parcels within the district. Additionally, “Alternative 2” passes through a portion of Point Peter, which is rated as having a high probability for the potential of archaeological resources. Point Peter is a peninsula created by the confluence of the Cape Fear River and Northeast Cape Fear River. A known archaeological site on Point Peter, labeled by the Office of State Archaeology as 31NH597, intersects “Alternative 2.” Site 31NH597 has not been evaluated for eligibility on the National Register of Historic Places. 

Assessments of noise and vibration effects utilize guidance and land use definitions from the Federal Transit Administration. When screening for noise, “Alternative 1” affects 217 land parcels and “Alternative 2” affects 222 land parcels defined as residences and buildings. These land parcels are within 1,200 feet of the alternative corridor’s center line. In screening for the effects of vibration, both “Alternative 1” and “Alternative 2” affect 7 residential land parcels, defined as within 200 feet of the screening distance. HWF is particularly concerned for the historic c. 1910 Bear-Sol Winery Building (1121 S. Front Street), a contributing structure in the Wilmington National Register Historic District. This three-story, brick building with a parapet roof and highly decorative brickwork is one of the best examples of industrial buildings included in the 2003 expansion of the Wilmington National Register Historic District and represents the closest historic structure to the “Alternative 1” and “Alternative 2” corridors. 

Currently, HWF awaits the release of the Wilmington Rail Realignment Reconnaissance-Level Historic Architectural Survey (Appendix E), Wilmington Rail Realignment Archaeological Resources Technical Study (Appendix F), and Wilmington Rail Realignment Noise and Vibration Technical Study (Appendix G). These appendices were added to the Alternatives Analysis Report based on HWF’s recommendations to the City of Wilmington and AECOM during the Screening Report phase earlier this year. Once these appendices have been released, HWF will provide feedback on the Alternatives Analysis Report to AECOM and the City of Wilmington.