PEMBROKE — A rail construction project touted as a way to get products to market faster while boosting economic development is right on track.
The CSX Transportation project is part of an $18.4 million investment that includes a 2.4-mile-long Pembroke Connector project, a Union Chapel Road rail overpass and the relocation of the town’s Jones Road crossing.
The next step in the Union Chapel Road project is to set the girders across the overpass, said Joe Allen Arnette, project manager for C.M. Lindsay and Sons, the Lumberton contractor handling the project. That work will be done at night.
“We’ll probably start that in March,” Arnette said.
Rains and flooding from Hurricane Matthew didn’t slow the project much, Arnette said.
“We had one place at the creek that was a problem, but we had that fixed in a couple of weeks,” he said.
When the grading is complete in November, CSX Transportation will begin laying the track and installing railroad signals. The project is expected to be complete in April 2018.
Economic development officials have said the project will improve the B Line, which goes from Charlotte to Wilmington along U.S. 74. CSX’s A Line runs from New York to Florida along the Interstate 95 corridor. The A and B lines intersect in Pembroke, where the connector is being built. The connector will allow trains to switch lines.
The connector is expected to reduce the time goods are delivered from Wilmington to Charlotte from up to three days to as little as 24 hours.
The rail improvement will be a strong marketing tool, said Greg Cummings, economic development director for Robeson County and mayor of Pembroke.
“I think it’s going to be good for Robeson County and for Southeastern North Carolina,” Cummings said.
Fort Bragg also will benefit because it will allow for more efficient transportation of materials and equipment, he said.
Products going to foreign markets from companies located along the B Line will reach their destinations more quickly, he said.
“It’s also going to be vital back to the port of Wilmington, which is a very important export market globally,” Cummings said. “We can see where basically it will help us as far as attracting new industries. We’re going to see groups that need rail service.”
A related project, part of the future Queen City Express, is scheduled for Laurinburg. There the Department of Transportation will work with CSX to develop and build a two-mile rail passing track at an estimated cost of $9.1 million. The new track will enable long trains traveling between Wilmington and Charlotte to pass each other.
“We are under way with the planning documents as well as the preliminary designs. NCDOT will be doing that particular work,” said Paul C. Worley, Rail Division director for the state Department of Transportation..
It was announced in July that CSX will invest $160 million to build the Carolina Connector, inter-modal hub, in Edgecombe County.
Reach Terri Ferguson Smith at 910-416-5865.