OPINION: North Carolina on track

Public domain—Public domain

On Tuesday in Rocky Mount, Gov. Pat McCrory announced CSX will open a new intermodal terminal, the $272 million Carolina Connector (CCX) project. Construction of the cargo-transfer facility will create 250 to 300 short-term jobs and 149 permanent jobs in Edgecombe and Nash counties.
But that’s just the beginning. A corrollary to the CCX is taking shape in Wilmington, called the Queen City Express. An investment of $100 million by the state and $160 million by CSX will lead to overnight freight rail service from the state port to the existing intermodal hub in Charlotte.
The state estimates the projects will create 1,500 jobs throughout North Carolina. The following are excerpts about the projects from editorials in two local newspapers.
Rocky Mount Telegram: “CSX news a plum for Twin Counties”

Short of plans to build a major automobile factory and give away cars to everyone in a 20-mile radius, it would be difficult to think of a better announcement for Edcombe and Nash than news of a multimillion-dollar CSX trains-and-trucks terminal. …
Not only do those jobs bring welcome relief to the most economically depressed area of the state, but the hub also will turn on a shiny beacon to the rest of the world.
The message will be clear: The Twin Counties (Edgecombe and Nash) soon will have the most technologically modern transportation hub in the country, capable of moving freight by truck, train, air and sea in a couple of hours and change at the most.
(The regional public-private partnership) dodged some of the sticky issues that doomed an earlier plan for Johnston County. The partnership optioned parcels with receptive landowners on the Edgecombe County side of U.S. 301, near N.C. Wesleyan College. No need for the “eminent domain” bullet that left the folks in Johnston County howling.
The result is a giant plum for Eastern North Carolina. Folks already are calling it the best economic news in 20 years… and it likely will hold that title for another 20 years.
Wilmington StarNews: “Rail links a big boost for port”

While the connection to the planned CSX hub in Rocky Mount is still a ways off, the so-called Queen City Express to and from Charlotte is on the fast track, with service set to begin in September.
(Tracks already exist between Wilmington and Charlotte, but there is no direct service. Tracks will have to be added to complete the Wilmington-Rocky Mount route).
The Queen City Express will be double-stacked with shipping containers and provide overnight, nonstop service, giving shippers using the Port of Wilmington quick and easy access to the hub in Charlotte, which is served by rail, truck and air.
This and projects like extending Interstate 74 into Southeastern North Carolina and a plan to extend the Carolina Bays Parkway from the Myrtle Beach area into Brunswick County are the types of infrastructure investments our state needs to promote commerce. Governor McCrory and his administration should be commended for helping keep the CSX hub project alive after it met strong resistance in Johnston County.
It looks like the express service to Charlotte is a done deal. The Wilmington-Rocky Mount connection will be more complicated and time consuming, and officials still are short on public details, like the exact route. CSX tracks currently connect Rocky Mount to Wallace, but a gap exists between Wallace and Wilmington after track was pulled up in the 1980s.
Wilmington has waited a long time to reverse its downfall as a railroad town. It will be important that state leaders, our local legislators as well as municipal and business officials ensure this ambitious plan stays on track.