RALEIGH — People want to know how Raleigh and northern Wake County will change when streets are closed and new bridges built for a high-speed rail line that will carry trains at speeds up to 110 mph between here and Richmond, Va.
They want to know what it will feel like - and how it will sound - when those trains roll through town.
"Is everything going to shake for a couple of blocks away?" asked Chip Russell, the Wake Forest town planning director. "How loud is this thing going to be? Is it a swoosh, or is it a roar?"
A public hearing in Raleigh this evening will give Wake residents the chance to find out how they will be affected and to voice their opinions. State Department of Transportation officials are soliciting feedback as they refine a $2.3 billion plan to build the Raleigh-to-Richmond line as part of the Southeast High Speed Rail Corridor from Charlotte to Washington.
All rail crossings would be closed to keep people from walking or driving across the tracks. Some roads would become dead ends, and the others - nine or 10 in Raleigh and Wake - would be replaced with bridges and underpasses to take cars over and under the trains.
Depending on which of two routes DOT chooses between Jones Street and Wake Forest Road in downtown Raleigh, 37 to 70 businesses in the city and county would be forced to move out of the way - along with nine to 11 homes.
Other property owners would have to sell strips of their yards and pastures along the 19 miles of track planned from downtown Raleigh through northern Wake. Most of the tracks would be built in existing railroad right-of-way.
Starting in downtown Raleigh, the DOT plan would convert the West Hargett Street rail crossing into a long bridge spanning a triangular confluence of tracks known as the Boylan Wye. This is where the city wants to build its Union Station for trains and beefed-up regional transit service, and Hargett would run through the middle of the new depot.
Jones Street would be closed or converted to a bridge four blocks long. If the trains followed CSX tracks on the east side of Capital Boulevard, the West and Harrington street crossings would be closed. If the trains moved north from there through a Norfolk Southern rail corridor on the west side of Capital Boulevard, the Fairview Road crossing would be closed, and a new underpass would take Wake Forest Road under the tracks.
CSX has not commented on the high-speed rail proposal. Norfolk Southern doesn't want DOT to route the new trains through its freight yard.
Hoping to win allies in the nearby Five Points neighborhood, Norfolk Southern invited residents to a community fair Saturday in a tent pitched at its trackside office near Fairview Road.
David O'Loughlin, a Five Points resident who likes to travel by train, came to hear what railroad officials had to say.
"I gather they've got a point of view, and they're trying to get people to support it," O'Loughlin said Saturday. "But I'm still trying to make up my mind."
Moving north from Wake Forest Road, DOT plans call for a new Whitaker Mill Road bridge, the closing of the Wolfpack Lane crossing, and new bridges over the tracks at New Hope Church, Millbrook, Gresham Lake and Durant roads.
In northern Wake, DOT wants new bridges to replace crossings at Ligon Mill and Rogers roads.
In Wake Forest, dead ends would replace crossings at Friendship Chapel Road, Cedar Avenue, and Elm and Brick streets. Holding Avenue would be realigned and lifted over the tracks on a new bridge.
"I'm pretty pleased with the way they come through Wake Forest, but I am concerned about closing Elm Street," Mayor Vivian Jones said. "Elm Street has always been one of the main ways to connect to downtown, and we would hate to lose that."
The hearing at the Raleigh Convention Center this evening will focus on the project's impact in Wake County. Hearings are also planned for Tuesday in Henderson and Thursday in Franklinton.
Staff writer Sue Stock contributed to this story.
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