Commercial freight is not far away for the economic future of Onslow

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The reality of commercial freight arriving at Onslow is in one of the final stages of its 10-year journey to help bring more economic development to the county. Overcoming obstacles along the way, officials say they didn’t get to where they are today by high-speed train, but rather in a steam locomotive.

In fact, the line is “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”, but it would be understandable if the officials decided to sprint now that they have reached the home stretch.

Camp Lejeune announced that it has started the due diligence process required to approve the requested easement under the Stoney Project, allowing commercial freight to use the Camp Lejeune rail line. The process could take up to six months and will include the completion of the NEPA (National Environmental Protection Agency) process and other legal hurdles.

Base officials said they remain optimistic about whether the easement will be approved, but remain cautious as it is only at the start of the process and there are several steps left before it is approved.

Jacksonville / Onslow Economic Development has been implementing Project Stoney since 2011 with the idea of ​​recruiting a new industry in the county using commercial freight. The rail line runs between Camp Lejeune and Cherry Point and connects to the main rail line from the state port to Morehead City and beyond.

Currently, rail traffic is used exclusively to transport equipment and supplies to and from Camp Lejeune. The rail line is owned by the US Department of Defense and is operated under an agreement with Norfolk Southern Railway, a subsidiary of Norfolk Southern.

JOED executive director Mark Sutherland explained that granting the easement would be the final hurdle in the 10-year project, as commercial freight has not been available at Onslow for decades.

“When it comes to recruiting businesses that require rail service, Onslow County just isn’t in the game with the surrounding counties. This announcement represents a major addition to our economic development toolkit. This is certainly one of the most important economic development news stories of the year for our community, ”said Sutherland.

RELATED: The Camp Lejeune railway seen as a possible engine of economic development

In 2016, a feasibility study was prepared for the rail division of the North Carolina Department of Transportation in partnership with the Jacksonville Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

The results of the study concluded that access to the rail line should be considered for the county, as it would help attract new businesses and industries that could meet their short- and long-term freight needs. An examination of the track condition confirmed that the line could handle additional freight traffic, but improvements would be needed, including replacing lighter rails where the railway bends to heavier steel rails. .

Cost estimates for this replacement range from $ 250,000 to $ 350,000, according to the study.

Three industries in Onslow, Jones, Carteret and Craven counties are cited in the study as expected to achieve positive and sustained growth and would be supported by rail access and the current workforce: construction materials and equipment, manufacturing of metals and wood products.

From these three industry groups, the researchers believed that a total of 90 direct jobs and 199 indirect jobs would be created, bringing in a total annual income of $ 750,000 and contributing $ 480,000 in sales tax revenues.

Sutherland went on to say that Project Stoney’s client had shown tremendous dedication to bringing commercial freight and the construction industry to Onslow over the past 10 years, so much so that they had to renew contracts at great cost to keep working towards their ultimate goal. .

“They are really committed, they have committed a lot of money and at this point it’s not going to evaporate,” added Sutherland. “This is the last property that makes sense because of its proximity to Highway 24. Never say it couldn’t happen, but we’re optimistic it will.”

Journalist Trevor Dunnell can be contacted by email at [email protected] Please consider supporting local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription for as little as $ 1 per month. JDNews.com. Subscribe now


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