Amazingly – NCDOT has already published a preliminary review of the Alt-NC1/2 alternative published in The Independent and now calls the alternative “infeasible” for suggested reasons noted in the document which can be accessed and viewed at:
The main problem outlined by NCDOT’s Memo is that the proposed alternative still routes the line through the existing “choke-point” behind the Cotton Mill and there are elevation issues which NCDOT suggests cause an unacceptable grade for the HSR route (2+ degrees).
The solution to these issues which fix most of the issues outlined by NCDOT is to move the Alt NC-1/2 diverging route to a point PRIOR to reaching the “choke-point” at the Cotton Mill, then cross-over Capital to follow a line adjacent to the Peace Street exit ramp off Capital Blvd (elevated) and then flying over to North St. in a similar fashion to the first Alt NC1/2 route and into the downtown Union Station (into a central platform).
This revised alternative avoids the choke-point behind Cotton Mill which NCDOT cites in suggesting that this route is “infeasible.” It is NOT infeasible . . . and it is prudent as well. It also avoids the elevation issues noted by NCDOT as the route would cross Capital at a low point prior to the road coming to a “hump” where it is bridged over Peace and goes uphill into downtown. The original proposed alternate crosses Capital at a point where it rises in elevation coming into downtown requiring the rail bridge in the proposed alternate to elevate at a steeper pitch than NCDOT suggests is permitted in order to get over it.
The existing elevation of CSX corridor at the location prior to the “choke-point” behind the Cotton Mill is about 300’. At the location where it could cross Capital and track the Peace Street exit ramp the elevation of the vehicle roadbed is approximately 270 feet. There is sufficient area prior to these points along the CSX corridor to lift an approach for the rail bridge over Capital without any steep inclines (2 degrees or less) while also maintaining symmetry with the approach into the NC3 route near North Street so there is no drastic change in elevation across this area. They are proposing elevating the NC3 track bed in this location by about 5’ in any event so the elevation here should be workable and there is enough real estate between the crossing at Capital and a proposed connection near North Street to get the bridge aligned vertically with less than a 2 degree grade.
The other benefits to this revised alternative approach are (1) it uses a small slice of City of Raleigh property along Capital to make it work and the City should be more than willing to chip that in gratis; (2) by my count only 7 other properties would be taken which collectively have a tax value (probably FMV in this market) of less than $7M. There might be one or two more properties that could be impacted or taken but it would appear that the tax value of all such properties would be less than $10-12M. In comparison, the value of the impacts to the NS yard along NC3 would likely be far in excess of $15M alone without even considering all the other impacted and taken properties along the NC3 route.
The alternate NC1/2 route (i) avoids all of these impacts, (ii) will save money from fewer property takings/relocations and impact mitigation (or be cost neutral on account of additional costs to bridge Capital), (iii) keeps West/Harrington open, (iv) has the same impact re closing Jones street (this is neutral), and (v) preserves the NC-1/2 approach into Union Station for a center platform.
It deserves careful study by NCDOT and COR – at a minimum.
City of Raleigh must review their own Comprehensive Plan re rail and transportation policies. Below is a direct quote from The Comp Plan governing long-range planning rail/transportation initiatives throughout the city . . . . .
"City of Raleigh 2030 Comprehensive Plan
Action T 4.3 - Intercity Fixed Route Transit
Explore, develop, and promote option for an intercity fixed-route transit system that will link neighborhoods to major activity centers in the region. Work with regional partners to use existing rail lines within the next 10 to 15 years, but also allow for services to run outside of existing rail lines in the longer-term."
See Comp Plan, p. 83.
NOTE the reference at the end of this Policy Statement to consideration of rail services OUTSIDE of existing CSX and NS lines as a planning policy that is supposed to GUIDE the City of Raleigh in the "longer-term" in connection with inter-city regional rail projects. Indeed, the City is OBLIGATED by the very planning document they adopted about a year ago to consider alternatives outside of the existing NC3 and NC1/2 routes.
See proposed Alternate NC-1/2 which utilizes a corridor outside of the existing NC3 and NC1/2 corridors. The City and DOT must study this alternative closely.
Finally - someone with some sense to take a deep breath and six months to study these impacts closely. At a minimum, such is required for impacts so deep and long term. Once reviewed in detail, one will be unable to logically look at NC3 as the "least bad" of three bad options. It is, in fact, the worst.
From the Edgerton Diamond near Atlantic/Capital to North Street in Glenwood South a revised NC 4 route (or a mitigated NC1/2 alternative) will require taking approximately 7 properties near Peace/West/Harrington. These properties have a total tax value of less than $7 million (which is very likely close to FMV in today's market). The properties along NC3 to be taken in this same area will be tens of millions and perhaps in excess of $100M (the impacts to the NS yard alone could be tens of millions of dollars).
Keep in mind that the land acquisition costs are not included in the current NC3 cost figure which already runs close to $50 more than the unmitigated NC1/2 alternative. Further, environmental mitigation expenses (sound and/or controlled access walls/fences) are also not included in the existing cost estimate for NC3. Add millions more for that as well.
NC is far too expensive . . . and . . . it is much more harmful to the entire Raleigh community. This is not just about one neighborhood at one particular point in time. This is a big project that will be with us and folks in these neighborhoods for 100+ years and impact how City residents can get in/out and around downtown for the forseeable future. Lets be smart about this . . .
G. Cohen . . . I applaud your position on the PRTF and understanding the damaging impacts of NC3 - many of which are not even in the EIS (i.e. homes that will be impacted/taken and lack of ANY mitigation). These omissions will make NC3 even MORE expensive than NC1/2. The "mitigated" NC1/2 is the real win/win. Raleigh's new Comprehensive Plan even states that long-term rail projects should NOT be confined to existing rail corridors - particularly in the downtown area. See Transportation Section of Comp Plan. Also, the Edgerton Diamond should be bridged to take passenger rail traffic over it. The approach to that intersection lends itself to take a rail bridge over top given the existing topography along the route from Atlantic Ave (from Wolfpack Drive Capital). There is a significant elevation change for existing rail which can be utilized for a new HSR route to gradually rise and travel over the Edgerton Diamond and onto the "mitigated" NC1/2 route. Further, these alterations would solve the West/Harrington and Center Platform issues identified by the City planning staff proposing NC3, and avoid devastating impacts to downtown neighborhoods that would effectively wall them ff to a future developing Capital Blvd Corridor.
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