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Wednesday, 19 September 2018 00:00

Roanoke Rapids council backs Weldon bid for Amtrak service

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Roanoke Rapids City Council this evening backed a resolution supporting the location of a passenger rail station and service in Weldon.

Only Councilwoman Carol Cowen voted against the resolution. She declined to comment on her reason for voting against the measure following the meeting.

City Manager Joseph Scherer presented information on the resolution before council voted on the motion made by Councilman Carl Ferebee.

“As you are aware, our county leaders, the Halifax County Economic Development Commission, the Halifax County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the town of Weldon have been working collaboratively to push passenger rail service forward in our area,” he said. “They have built a strong case for the logistical and economic feasibility of an Amtrak station in Weldon to serve Halifax County and Northeastern North Carolina.”

Scherer said the project is tied to freight and logistic improvements the state Department of Transportation will make to serve the CSX Intermodal facility on Highway 301. “This resolution has been updated to include pertinent information for the project and will be presented as a part of a package to NCDOT and others in late October.”

The resolution notes many towns and economic centers in the region were formed along railroads and continue to rely “on this critical infrastructure to support economic progress.”

“The town of Weldon has a rich rail history as the home of the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad, the longest railroad in the world at the time of its completion in 1840.”

The resolution says railroads continue to be vital to the growth of the state’s economy and to the development, strength and diversity of its businesses, education, cultural and civic institutions. “The ability for the Weldon, Halifax County and the surrounding area to compete in a global economy requires an efficient and diverse transportation network to provide stable transportation costs and to increase travel between metropolitan communities and regions.”

The location of a passenger rail station in Weldon will provide access to passenger rail for approximately 122,000 residents who live more than 30 minutes from a station, according to the document. “Passenger trains offer an economical mode of transportation that is usually less expensive than driving or flying and closer to communities than commercial airports … passenger rail access in Weldon will connect the Northeast region to education and employment opportunities in urban areas and improve the quality of life and income levels of its residents.”

The resolution says, “passenger rail service in Weldon will stimulate economic activity and spur private investment in the area around the rail station … (and) will support commercial activity by bringing visitors into proximity of shopping, retail, tourism and other destinations, thereby increasing business activity and tax revenues.”

The resolution calls the location of a passenger station and service in Weldon “the highest priority rail project in Halifax County,” and says the town has authorized its library as the location of the possible station.

The resolution concludes, saying, “The Roanoke Rapids City Council supports NCDOT’s plans to construct a second Roanoke River crossing which will include approximately 10.5 miles of double track across the National Gateway Corridor (and) supports the location of an Amtrak passenger train station in Weldon.”

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