Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2013

SALISBURY — Saying the project will create jobs and bring businesses to the region, state and local officials gathered Monday at the spot where Klumac Road will run under the railroad tracks in 2016.
The $11.7 million construction project — paid for mostly by federal stimulus dollars — will create 26 jobs, said officials at the intersection of Old South Main Street and A Avenue, about a block from the recently closed crossing at Klumac Road.
Crews have shifted the Duke Energy substation and are moving power lines to make room for the new Klumac, a two-lane road that will take motorists from Main Street under the tracks to just south of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
“We are modernizing our rail system, and that plays a tremendous part in our efforts to better leverage our transportation system and infrastructure to create jobs and support economic development,” N.C. Transportation Secretary Tony Tata said.
Removing the rail crossing will make Klumac Road safer and could allow trains to go faster, eventually up to 90 mph.
The improvements will help lure companies, Tata said. The efficient movement of people and freight is one of the top factors businesses consider when they decide where to locate, he said.
Closing the Klumac crossing and realigning the road is one of several rail safety projects in the region, including one at Peeler and Peach Orchard roads.
The state has seen a spike in fatalities and injuries at rail crossings, with 22 already this year, officials said.
There has not been a death or serious injury at the Klumac crossing for a decade, but officials said the risk has been high. The crossing is part of the busiest segment of rail in North Carolina, with 4,300 vehicles and more than 40 trains passing through each day.
N.C. Railroad Company, which owns the rails, pledged $44 million for crossing improvements between Charlotte and Raleigh like the Klumac project and the new Yadkin River Bridge, President Scott Scott Saylor said.
Salisbury Mayor Paul Woodson called the Klumac project “the triple crown.”
“We’re going to have the high-speed rail one day, we’re going to have a very safe intersection here which people need, and we saved a very prominent business that’s been here a long time,” he said.
Johnson Concrete will remain in its current location on Klumac Road.
Salisbury resident Jake Alexander, who serves on the state’s Board of Transportation, said the project has the potential to attract future investment along the rail corridor from Raleigh to Charlotte.
“Klumac Road and the rail crossing have been a significant problem here for years, and to know that it will end soon and that the new road will come literally where we’re standing now really is impressive,” Alexander said.
He said he expects a “measurable impact” by removing the rail crossing from a main artery into Salisbury from Interstate 85.
Blythe Construction Inc. of Charlotte won the contract. The project should be done by October 2016.

Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.