The pushback would be from the owners of the houses/businesses that are on the proposed new alignment. I understand that the state does this all of the time, but you are basically seizing land to enhance a park. The new alignment would be lengthier and far less efficient for the railroad operations. There is literally no argument to say that the land acquisition is for the improvement/expansion of the transportation infrastructure. Additionally Norfolk Southern is a privately held corporation. I can’t see the state seizing someone’s land to give it to a corporation.
I think eminent domain is not quite as controversial as some think. The city uses eminent domain all the time to build greenways, for example.
And eminent domain is only required if the property owners refuse to sell.
Besides, the biggest, more important part of @orulz’s suggestion isn’t the new rail shunt; it’s the land swap between the rail line bisecting Dix Park and conceptual right-of-way that you’re worried about.
Even though you know the strip of land isn’t always going to be public property, it’s still the city/county/state/whoever that is directly purchasing the land from the current owners. Whether it’s to create a greenway, expand Dix Park, or even create a stretch of rail where GoTriangle can build a commuter rail extension to Fuquay, you’re still building something for the public interest. Public parks are public property; private rail operations are not. Whether you improve transportation infrastructure from this doesn’t necessarily matter from the state’s perspective; for either park- or transit-related reasons, you can still use eminent domain.
But you get pushback from owners 100 percent of the time you use ED. I mean, it’s literally the whole point of using ED. And I don’t think that the unwilling sellers would be any more or less unhappy over a railroad relocation than they would be if we were building another highway. My experience has been that landowners basically don’t care why their land is being condemned.
Also: 1. Very few actual houses would be affected. This would overwhelmingly be non-residential land. 2. While NS is a private corporation, it’s also a public utility and we would be rerouting a railroad at the state’s request rather than the company’s, so the politics would not be nearly so problematic as if we were giving people’s land to Apple or Amazon or whatnot. 3. While Dix Park would be the most visible beneficiary of this swap, it would be far from the only beneficiary.
My point is that there would likely be too much opposition for this to be a realistic option. The cost associated with acquiring the land and or litigating the eminent domain, the new alignment would require several bridges, some of which are over wetlands. Again more likely litigation because of some sort of obscure mollusk that lives in the creek, that, up until now, nobody ever cared about. Getting the railroad on board with the new track routing that is longer and curvier. Inevitably, there will be a 95-year-old lady in one of the houses that is being seized. This would quickly turn into a political hot potato. Compare this with the “do nothing” option where you still have an outstanding park, albeit one that is bisected by the railroad, which will likely not really be noticed in the big picture. The return on investment wouldn’t warrant the expense.
I really, truly think you’re overestimating the extent to which there would be opposition to this that could stymie such a project. The state uses ED to condemn land all the time, and it’s extremely rare for it to become a political football.
ED litigation–and again, I know very much of what I speak about here–is almost entirely fought over whether the state is handing over enough money in compensation. There’s almost no litigation over whether the state has the right to take the land, because it’s generally pretty clear that of course they do. Litigating the ED claims would be a trivial contributor to the cost.
And, again, I have no idea who would be opposing this aside from a handful of landowners (and statistically speaking it’s exceedingly unlikely that any of the landowners will be 95-year-old ladies.). I think that most people in the community would be largely in favor of this plan–although that would hardly matter anyway if the state is taking the land, in which case elected officials are largely insulated from any political fallout. And given that the rail lines are close together and the bridge would move through a developed area, it seems highly unlikely that any obscure mollusks would present a stumbling block.
This really feels like pessimism solely for pessimism’s sake.
While Dix Park is the most visible beneficiary of this swap, other benefits do accrue to the public:
- Closing the railroad grade crossings on Biggs (in the middle of Dix), Lake Wheeler, and Maywood, and also
- Better rail passenger service (and better freight service) along the NCRR thanks to removing Norfolk Southern’s diamond crossing just west of the Boylan Wye. Commuter rail could add up to 40 new trains through here each day, in addition to existing and future intercity trains and freight traffic. This crossing which blocks the mainline for minutes at a time is going to become much more problematic in the future.
- Just a thought, but the stretch of right-of-way wedged between Central Prison and Boylan Heights could even be used as a possible entry point into downtown for the Western Blvd BRT.
Really it’s 8 houses, valued at well under $200k each even in today’s market, so just give the owners a sweet offer and wish them well.
Not a pessimist so much as a realist. the 95 year old woman example was borrowed from the pushback against the Durham east end connector project. The obscure mollusk example was cited from the opposition to the southeast segment of the I-540 project. Obviously both projects continued, but they were for interstate expansions, not for enhancing a park. I believe we will have to agree to disagree on this subject. If it were to happen the way you or others say, I will be happy to buy all of you a beer.
Yeah, it would be tremendously helpful to get rid of the at-grade crossing right next to each other at Lake Wheeler and Maywood. That would really help activate that area. I’d love to find a way to get rid of the at-grade crossing on Carolina Pines, although that looks like it might be much more difficult. (I believe this would also get rid of one of the two at-grade crossings on Hargett St., potentially freeing up that land for some sort of more productive use.)
Totally agree on points 2 and 3 as well. And while I obviously completely disagree with Greg’s prediction about what the politics of this would be like, it’s really sad to me to think that we would be okay with using ED to build a massive highway for cars, but resistant to the idea of using ED to achieve public policy goals that would include (but not be limited to) massively improving the quality of the city’s signature, destination park.
I’m really not saying that I think all this would work out. In my opinion: the impacts are reasonable, the benifits are manifest, the costs might be large but could be covered by a bond issue, and as such it merits a look. I’d just like somebody to actually look into it seriously rather than dismiss it offhand.
Parks and trails are so massively popular with such a broad swath of the electorate, that I have a hard time believing that controversy from ED would be the thing to end this project. While somewhere between 6 and 8 homes in that neighborhood would have to get bought out, the rest of the neighborhood gets something big in return: an awesome greenway connection across I-40, to Dix Park, Centennial Campus, and Downtown. Hardly a recipe for a huge controversy. DOT also offers free relocation services and there’s a chance that many of those residents could get relocated to other similar houses very nearby.
If there were one thing that could put a wrench in the whole works, it would be the railroad. Everything is for sale; it’s just a matter of price. The idea is that building the bypass plus buying the existing tracks would be enough to get them to negotiate in good faith and settle on a reasonable price. It’s possible that they could decline to play ball and demand that we buy the entire line to Fayetteville or nothing at all.
Would the new crossing at S. Wilmington be elevated or at-grade? I’m guessing elevated. If so, I wonder what the gradient would be to meet the track elevation under Hammond road.
For me personally I don’t mind if the Railroad stays, In fact I think that it probably should stay and that a future transit stop for a commuter rail should be located someplace between the Dix Hospital and the Farmer’s Market. I mean they could literally build greenway trails just about anywhere they want at Dix park and you don’t need to remove the railway for that purpose. A few footbridges over the railway would be great. I think trains coming through the park on occasion would be entertaining to those train lovers.
How feasible do you think a line such as this would be?
The tracks would go below Wilmington Street.
Wilmington Street is at 270’ where I have shown it crossing the railroad.
The railroad would start at 240’ elevation where it crosses under Hammond Road. It would begin to climb as it heads west, reaching an elevation of somewhere between 250 and 255 feet when it crosses under Wilmington.
Assuming the railroad demands FULL 20’ Plate H clearance, that means Wilmington would have to be raised somewhere between 5 and 10 feet in order to be 25’ above the railroad. Roads can be pretty steep (8% is common) so this would not be a big deal.
Another benefit of basically digging out a trench to go under Wilmington, is that the dirt excavated here could be used on the west half of the line where fill would be needed. It saves a lot of money if you can source all your fill dirt from within the project itself, and don’t have any left over that you have to haul off and dump somewhere.
I think you would have to elevate the tracks instead of raising Wilmington Street. As you go west, you have to cross over the southern portion of the S. Saunders interchange and the wetlands just beyond. Essentially a viaduct from just past Hammond to the Carolina Pines neighborhood.
It could work. This could definitely be one of the alternatives in the “alternatives analysis” phase of such a hypothetical project.
It seems like it might be a little more difficult from a grade standpoint (Has to climb 75 feet of elevation within 6900 feet of length, roughly 1.1%, instead of 64 feet in 6400 feet of length, or 1%). But it’s not impossible.
It directly impacts fewer homes, although more recieve indirect impacts, with the railroad being right across the street from them where it wasn’t there before. If your home gets bought, you get money for your property plus help relocating. If they build something next to you, at best you get a noise wall; at worst, you get nothing. Those sorts of impacts can sometimes be tricky in their own right.
Not sure how it balances out on fill dirt, seems like you might need to bring some from off site. But that’s not a deal breaker.
You’d need to acquire the gas station at Sam’s Club, and probably the BP across the street as well. But you also wouldn’t have to rebuild/reconfigure the I-40 interchange. Not sure which way comes out ahead on costs.
You’d need an extra bridge over Carolina Pines Avenue, or else to just extend the bridge over South Saunders, so that would probably cost more. But then, the Carolina Pines grade crossing would be gone too, which is a big plus. Besides Lake Wheeler and Maywood, this is about the only consequential public grade crossing on this line until you get to Banks Road way south of Wake Tech.
The railroad would likely want to soften the resulting curve as much as practical, so I would assume a few more houses would have to be acquired. Don’t forget the remaining land owners who aren’t bought out will be complaining about their newly-decreased property values as well.
Yeah, aside from one very, very minor AGC between 401 and Ten-Ten, I’m pretty sure Carolina Pines is the last AGC until you get to Banks Rd. The tracks go under Tryon, then under Fayetteville/401, then under Ten-Ten, and then you hit Banks, which is actually not that far south of Wake Tech. (Full disclosure: I live right near where the tracks pass under Ten-Ten, and we’re assigned to Banks Road Elementary.)
You might be right about how sharp the curves are. I really can’t say. It has to be that sharp in order to use the existing underpass under Hammond Avenue. There are other curves this sharp elsewhere on the line. But we won’t know the answer to this unless somebody actually starts looking into it.
Elevating the tracks over Wilmington would be impossible, the tracks would have to climb 50’ from 240’ to 290’ within 1500’ of length, which is a 3.3% grade, an impossibility in railroad terms.
Whereas, grades of 8% are possible and indeed quite common on roadways.
In this case, given the industrial nature of the area, we might want to take a gentler 5% grade. Since it’s a downhill slope headed south, you could easily raise Wilmington by 10’ with a very short 5% grade to the south, maybe 100’ long, and it would only take about 500’ to get back down to grade to the north, near the main driveway to the Evergreen Packaging plant. Given a 100’ long bridge, the total length of Wilmington Street that would need to be rebuilt would be just 700’ long. Not a big deal.