Put the brakes on sizing up the NC Railroad

July 19, 2013 

So why is it so important that the state know exactly what the North Carolina Railroad is worth? Well, call it a conspiracy theory if you like, but consider this: Republicans in the General Assembly have passed a tax cut that’s likely to create quite a hole in future budgets. Their plan is reckless and shortsighted, but they’re pushing on.

Might their curiosity about the worth of the railroad, a 317-mile line that curves through Charlotte and the Triangle to Morehead City, be tied to an aim to sell it to plug budget gaps? And could it be that the railroad is but the first of the state’s assets to be sized up for the block?

Republicans say, oh, no, they’re not actively looking to sell the railroad. But a special budget provision requested by Gov. Pat McCrory’s office would invite the state Department of Transportation and the budget office to entertain offers for the railroad. The purpose, some House Republicans say, is just to know what it’s worth. As The News & Observer’s Bruce Siceloff reported, there’s already a report that a private equity firm might be interested.

What a foolish, foolish move it would be to sell the railroad, which is a private corporation owned entirely by the state. The railroad already brings in $14 million annually from the lease of tracks to Norfolk Southern Railroad. And legislative staff, who studied the issue closely, recommended in 2012 holding on to the railroad as an asset for economic development.

This falls under the category of leaving well enough alone. Selling the railroad to fill in budget gaps created by an ill-considered tax cut would provide one-time money and nothing more. And the railroad would be gone. This idea should not leave the station.

News & Observer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service