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After Some Opposition, CSX to Build $272 Million Rail Hub in North Carolina

Posted on July 25, 2016

While opposition from Johnston County landowners stalled a proposed CSX container hub, Rocky Mount, North Carolina economic development officials quietly pieced together 700 acres for a partnership willing to take on the project. For that reason, the $272 million CSX rail hub once destined for Johnston County will instead go 50 miles north to Rocky Mount.

Gov. Pat McCrory and other state officials announced the move July 19 at North Carolina Wesleyan College, ending a tumultuous six months that pitted family farms against the jobs and tax revenue the project promised and threatened to cost North Carolina the project altogether.

State officials approved $122.1 million in state financial incentives for the CSX project, including $110 million in performance incentives from the N.C. Department of Transportation, $7.8 million in intermodal tax credits and $4.3 million in Job Development Investment Grants, or JDIGs. To receive the full extent of incentives, CSX must meet hiring goals and must invest $160 million in the facility by Dec. 31, 2024. It also must keep the 876 jobs it already has in the state. RELATED: CSX to Build East Coast Intermodal Hub in North Carolina

The regional container hub, called the Carolina Connector, will route and reroute freight from trucks and trains to final destinations up and down the East Coast and across the country. It’s expected to bring 149 jobs to the Rocky Mount area, which has the second-highest unemployment rate in the state. The jobs will pay an average wage of $64,047.

“We were thrilled in our area when we thought the project was going to Johnston County,” said Norris Tolson, CEO of Carolinas Gateway Partnership. His group put together purchasing options for the land CSX picked for their site. “Now that it’s in our area, we believe it will be very, very beneficial, not just to the twin counties (Edgecombe and Nash) but as a very good regional project. We see it as a statewide project that will help us connect east and west better than we do right now.”

Since late January, Tolson’s office has been signing purchasing options with willing landowners along CSX’s north-south main line. He said the group came up with 710 acres, of which CSX will use between 500 and 550 acres. The facility will go east of N.C. Wesleyan, not far from the Interstate 95 corridor between College Road and Old Battleboro Road, and CSX said the likely footprint of the facility will affect 20 parcels, with all options already secured. “In this case, we told landowners, ‘We are trying to put together an assemblage of land for a very large industrial client, who needs to be close to the railroad,’” Tolson said.

Josie Davis, one of those landowners, said she was first approached in April about selling but was never told who the buyer would be or how her land will be used. College Road runs through nearly 40 acres of her great-grandfather’s farm, but while she didn’t know who was buying the land, she said she wanted to help be part of something that might reverse the downward economic trend of Rocky Mount. “If it’s going to help Edgecombe’s economy, yes, I’m willing to sell,” Davis said. “The resources are really needed to enhance the lifestyle of all the people in this area. There aren’t a lot of jobs available.”

According to officials, CSX also was considering competing locations in South Carolina and Virginia. State incentives are contingent on a corporation selecting North Carolina over competing sites. The project originally was planned for 450 acres between Selma and Micro, in the eastern, more rural side of Johnston, a county that has experienced most of its rapid suburban growth along its western border with Wake County.

CSX and Department of Transportation officials say it will unclog interstates by removing trucks and will more efficiently deliver goods and materials, and it could help the state land large manufacturers, offering an economic life raft to eastern North Carolina.

Source: Transport Topics

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