A proposed bridge over Capital Boulevard would cost more than other options for routing passenger trains through downtown Raleigh, but state engineers say it would cause fewer problems for businesses, neighborhoods, streams and historic sites.
Raleigh residents will have a chance to learn about the new approach, and to compare it with options aired a year ago, at a public meeting 4-7 p.m. today at the Raleigh Convention Center. [9/28/11 update: see today's story from last night's meeting.]
It's part of the state Department of Transportation’s work on a proposed 162-mile track for trains that would run as fast as 110 mph between Raleigh and Richmond, Va. The new line would be 35 miles shorter than the route now used by Amtrak, and DOT says it would cut two hours of travel time for journeys from Raleigh to Washington and the Northeast.
The new downtown path devised by DOT engineers, called NC5, would be the most expensive option for a 3.4-mile segment of the rail route from a planned station near Hargett Street north to Whitaker Mill Road: a total estimated cost of $158.4 million.
It features a 700-foot-long bridge that would carry trains over traffic on West Street and Capital Boulevard between Peace Street and Wade Avenue.
Norfolk Southern Railway said last year it would suffer damages of $100 million or more if DOT chose a path, called NC3, to run the passenger trains through its freight yard along the western edge of Capital Boulevard. Residents of nearby Five Points neighborhoods expressed alarm about noise and destructive vibrations from speeding trains.
NC5 would force 48 businesses to relocate, instead of the 54 businesses that would be affected by the NC3 Five Points option, and its right-of-way costs are $11 million less. But the Capital Boulevard bridge makes its construction costs $32 million higher than NC3’s.
Norfolk Southern has not commented on NC5. Phil W. Poe, co-chairman of the Five Points Citizens Advisory Council, said Five Points residents appear to satisfied with the new option.
“I think everybody feels it’s a reasonable compromise,” Poe said.
Marc W. Hamel, the DOT project manager, said routing the trains across Capital Boulevard would sharply reduce projected noise and vibration impacts on existing buildings, and it’s the only option that avoids hurting historic residential and commercial sites including Seaboard Station, the Cotton Mill, Pilot Mills, Raleigh Bonded Warehouse and residential neighborhoods on both sides of Capital Boulevard.
“This is responding to the public and coming up with a better plan for everybody,” Hamel said. “This one actually makes sense.”
Maps have been posted on the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor site to show the new option, called NC5, along with new modifications to three alternatives that were aired last year. All options are still on the table.
Here's an interactive Google map of the NC5 route posted by Steven Waters.