WILMINGTON — The federal government has provided the North Carolina State Ports Authority an $18 million boost to construct an enhanced rail-loading area as part of a larger effort to modernize the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
The funding is part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s award to six North Carolina projects, totaling $60.2 million from the Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) program, boosted by President Joe Biden’s $1.2 trillion Bipartisan Infrastructure Law which passed last year.
According to US Department of Transportation, the initiative aims to “help move forward on projects that modernize roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports, and intermodal transportation and make our transportation systems safer, more accessible, more affordable, and more sustainable.”
The ports allocation will be used for an intermodal yard facility at the Port of Wilmington for loading and discharging containers on and off the rail, along with specialized equipment to support the more efficient process.
“This project will enable N.C. Ports to increase the volume of containers we move by rail from 14,000 containers a year to up to 50,000 containers a year,” NC Ports spokesperson Christina Hallingse said.
The funding also covers paving 9.7 acres around the rail sidings and three reach-stackers to load rail cars, along with a secluded area near the U.S. Customs and Border Protection required Radiation Portals.
Hallingse stated the system is expected to be fully operational by 2025.
The project will allow the port to reduce its reliance on truck deliveries and alleviate pressure on the national and global supply chain. According to the United States Department of Transportation, it will divert almost 250,000 container boxes from trucks to rail over the next decade.
“This will speed up the movement of goods to and from the port and benefit the local and regional populations by creating new jobs,” USDOT wrote in a release.
Other state allocations from RAISE include $10.7 million for the N.C. Department of Transportation to replace 28 low-water bridges in rural western North Carolina and $20 million for Main Street and Charlotte Road improvements in Spindale. Elizabeth City received $2 million for a 3.6-mile multi-use path and sidewalk improvements. The Town of Wake Forest received $3.4 million for the planning of mobility hubs in seven communities along the S-Line. The City of Winston-Salem will use $6 million to extend Long Branch Trail.
Almost all the projects include plans to upgrade pedestrian and non-motorized transport, along with improving safety along major corridors and frequent accident areas.
The NCDOT bases RAISE program awards on several criteria, including safety, environmental sustainability, quality of life, economic competitiveness and opportunity, partnership and collaboration, innovation, state of good repair, and mobility and community connectivity.
Based on those areas, the department considers how projects will improve accessibility for all travelers, bolster supply chain efficiency, and support racial equity and economic growth – particularly in historically disadvantaged communities and areas of persistent poverty, which make up two-thirds of the projects.
The largest grant award is $25 million. Per statute, no more than $341.25 million could be awarded to a single state in this round of funding.
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