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Whiteville officials press DOT for at-grade rail crossing on by-pass

Revised on: 06.19.2018 at 01:45 p.m.

Posted on: 06.18.2018 at 07:00 a.m.

By Allen Turner

allenturner@nrcolumbus.com

John Fisher, representing downtown Whiteville merchants, and Whiteville Mayor Terry Mann and City Manager Darren Currie were scheduled to appear before representatives of the N.C. Dept. of Transportation (DOT) in Fayetteville yesterday (Thursday) to urge DOT to modify their plans for expanding J.K. Powell Blvd. to include an “at-grade” railroad crossing that provides a direct route into the central downtown business district instead of continuing to have a bridge with no downtown access spanning the thoroughfare.

In addition to meeting with DOT yesterday, Fisher also appeared before city council Tuesday night to successfully urge passage of a resolution in which the city officially voiced support for the crossing to enable direct downtown access from Powell Boulevard, also known as the Highway 701 By-Pass.

If only five percent of the estimated 20,000 vehicles which travel Powell Boulevard each day utilize such an exit and crossing to access downtown, Fisher said that would result in 1,000 vehicles a day visiting downtown.

Fisher told council members that the president of R.J. Corman Railroad is supportive of the request, with the caveat that the railroad will not give up its existing right-of-way and will leave its existing tracks in place, although it has no current plans for extending rail service into the downtown area.

The resolution passed by council Tuesday called the business district the “lifeline” of the city and said it’s important that downtown’s viability be maintained and that the bypass “has the potential to aid in further economical development of the area.” In its resolution, council “urged” DOT wo consider including an at-grade intersection instead of a bridge over the railroad tracks “to create a window of opportunity for further business development.”

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