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Officials, residents discuss impact of proposed railroad project

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
CHINA GROVE ó Fueled by potential stimulus dollars, plans to forge a high-speed rail corridor through the county are on the fast track.
Detailed planning of the Salisbury to Kannapolis corridor is beginning and construction could start next year ó if the project gets the stimulus money. The estimated cost is $35 million.
The state proposes to add a 10-mile section of second main track. The track will be placed in the roadbed of a track that was taken up in 1963, a low point for the rail industry.
This section is the busiest rail corridor in the state, with more than 60 trains daily. Officials expect traffic to increase as the economy rebounds.
Property owners along the tracks got a close-up look at the project and some idea of its potential impact during a workshop Tuesday evening at the China Grove Community Memorial Building.
Nearly 100 people attended the public session to get information from representatives of the N.C. Railroad Company and the Rail Division of the N.C. Department of Transportation.
Aerial photos with the 200-foot wide rail corridor overlay took up most of one wall. Nearly a dozen state highway officials were on hand to answer question about potential impact.
Marc Hamel with the Department of Transportation said the Landis-China Grove section will be a tight fit, because of the buildup of structures along the track.
While adding back a set of tracks removed in 1963 is a major part of the project, a planner said realignment to fix curves will also be a challenge.
Paul R. Koch, a planner with Stantec, the company hired to plan the corridor, said curves will have to be redesigned to handle speeds of more than 70 mph.
Koch stressed that although property that includes businesses and other structures is within the 200-foot corridor, it doesn’t mean they will be impacted.
At this point, no additional road crossing have been earmarked for closing, but some could face major changes.
Officials held a private session for Kannapolis, Landis and China Grove officials prior to the public session.
China Grove Mayor Don Bringle said afterward that three intersections in China Grove are marked for major changes. The Eudy Road crossing on the south end of town carried the notation “evaluate crossing closing” on the display.
Bringle said officials cited problems with both the Thom Street and Centerview Street crossings. He noted changes at Centerview could have a major impact on the downtown.
David Lambert, owner of Lambert’s Wheel Alignment at 22nd St. in Kannapolis, is one of the businesses likely to be impacted.
Lambert said he never thought about the possibility that the business started by his father in 1978 would be taken away by the railroad.
He talked with state and railroad officials, trying to get a better idea of the timetable and impact on his business.
“I just hope they will be fair,” Lambert said.
For more information on the rail corridor project, contact Hamel at 919-733-7245, Ext. 270 or email mhamel@ncdot.gov.

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