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Pedestrian tunnel now possibility at train station

By Liz Moomey
liz.moomey@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The Salisbury City Council on Tuesday approved a resolution that could result in the creation of a tunnel to connect a proposed second platform to the existing one at the Salisbury Depot train station.

The council on Tuesday approved a resolution in support of funding for work at the train station in partnership with the N.C. Department of Transportation. Before approval, however, Mayor Al Heggins announced a change to the resolution, which would give the option for flexibility to connect pedestrians from the first to second platform.

The resolution reads, “The North Carolina State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) includes Projects P-5726 and P-5725 for track improvements, a second rail platform, pedestrian access, site work, retaining walls and signaling equipments near milepost 333.6 in Salisbury.”

The resolution had originally stated “pedestrian overpass,” instead of pedestrian access.

The renderings of the second platform on the east side of the tracks included a bridge with an elevator, but City Engineer Wendy Brindle said NCDOT was looking at the feasibility of a tunnel in terms of constructibility and cost. DOT will provide its recommendations at a later date.

“We changed it from overpass to access so that it can include the possibility of a tunnel,” Brindle said. “That opened us to explore other options instead of being locked into a bridge.”

Currently, DOT has been going in the direction of a bridge until they finish the feasibility study for the tunnel. Brindle said its plans are about 30% complete.

During the council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem David Post brought up a Facebook post made by Diane Young about the possibility of considering a tunnel.

“She’s got this whole conversation going about in lieu of a platform, which impacts the whole view of everything from Innes Street to Rail Walk of a tunnel,” he said. “It doesn’t cost as much and doesn’t have such a visual impact.”

Young said she was in Thomasville for work and saw a tunnel for pedestrians to get from one train platform to the other. Young said she thought about the possibility of a tunnel for Salisbury’s train station, as a bridge could have a negative aesthetic impact on the historic landmark, the Depot.

David Gall, an architect for the project who specializes in historic preservation of train stations, said stations across the state include examples of both bridges and tunnels. Gall said he will go along with whichever decision DOT decides is best.

“That possibility always exists, but until the engineer evaluation study is completed no decision can be made,” Gall said.

The N.C. Rail Division, a part of DOT, would decide the design of the train station and will fund the second platform. DOT would apply for a BUILD Grant, which would fund Salisbury’s platform, which is estimated to cost $13.43 million, or 55% of the total project cost. As a part of the State Transportation Improvement Project, the city will match the grant with $780,000. 

Construction for the second platform is expected to begin in June 2020 and take 18 months to complete. The Depot currently sees 10 passenger trains per day and 22 freight trains. The city expects to see an increase to 12 passenger trains in 2023, 14 in 2025 and to also see an increase in the number of freight trains to somewhere in the low 40s.

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