Railroad plans leave many with questions
By Jessie Burchette
CHINA GROVE ó At a meeting Thursday, state transportation officials laid out preliminary plans to close 12 railroad crossings between Salisbury and Kannapolis.
As part of the overall effort to provide high-speed rail, three new crossing would be constructed above or below tracks. Likely locations for the grade separations are 22nd Street in Kannapolis, Kimball Road between Landis and China Grove, and Peach Orchard Road.
N.C. Department of Transportation and N.C. Railroad officials and consultants unveiled the plans Thursday evening at the China Grove Community Memorial Building in two sessions ó the first for elected officials and a second information session for the public.
The change in the crossing is the latest element of an overall plan to restore a second set of tracks between Greensboro and Charlotte, eventually accommodating more trains and higher speeds.
Mike Upright, a newly-elected Landis alderman, repeatedly asked the question that drew the most public interest: How will individual property owners be compensated?
Officials said it will be on a case-by-case basis.
Landis and China Grove officials expressed some relief that the preliminary plan isn’t as bad as they feared.
Landis will get to keep the Ryder Avenue crossing open.
In China Grove, the Church Street and Centerview crossings will remain open.
China Grove Mayor Don Bringle pressed hard for answers about the crossings, saying business owners on Main Street, including banks, are already looking for property on U.S. 29 ó fearful the rail improvement project will wipe out their businesses.
Marc Hamel, a planner with DOT, said detailed information could be available within six to eight months.
Hamel and consultants said the track will likely be moved slightly to the east near Centerview Street, taking pressure off the business along Main Street that back up to the track.
Bringle and others expressed concern at losing the Thom Street crossing and the potential impact on fire response to the large textile mill there.
Hamel insisted that anyone cut off by the closing of a crossing ó including private crossings ó will be provided another way to access their homes or property.
Landis Town Manager Reed Linn questioned the impact of plans to straighten a curve in the tracks on the south end of town. Hamel said it should have little impact on nearby businesses or homes.
Landis officials questioned why the plan calls for closing the new North Central Avenue crossing, which the state just completed.
State and rail officials found out quickly they’ll have to re-work a portion of their plans for the Peach Orchard-Peeler Road area.
Carl Ford, chairman of the Rowan County Board of Commissioners, pointed out plans for expansion of the airport runway, closing of Airport Road, and eventual construction of a new road linking up with Peach Orchard Road.
State officials and the design consultants said they knew nothing of the plan.
Ford said the plan is on file with the Aviation Division of the Department of Transportation.
Hamel said the county’s plan will be included in the final design for that section, which would offer the airport a direct link along Peach Orchard Road to Interstate 85.
While the two dozen-plus elected officials had plenty of questions, many expressed doubt the project will get the hundreds of millions in federal stimulus funds needed.
Wayne Mishak was among those attending the public information session and wasn’t satisfied with the lack of answers.
Mishak and his wife operate Chickee’s restaurant on South Main Street.
He wanted to know how they will be compensated for their business if the project takes it.
“It would be nice to know,” Mishak said, adding that they face losing their business and would get little if any compensation.