Residents concerned about impact of new CSX cargo hub

Posted January 18, 2016 8:43 p.m. EST
Updated January 20, 2016 11:17 a.m. EST

— Residents in Selma and Kenly are concerned about plans to build a rail terminal in Johnston County.

Freight rail giant CSX said last Thursday that it plans to build a $272 million terminal east of Selma that will provide a major transshipment point for container cargo to and from North Carolina ports.

The Carolina Connector, or CCX terminal would connect eastern North Carolina directly to the CSX rail network. Trent Lassiter owns an entertainment venue in Selma called The Farm on land that has been in his family for generations, and he said moving the business to accommodate the new terminal would not be the same.

"If you don’t live on a farm or grow up on a farm, you don’t understand, but you can’t just build a business and have it mean the same as it does here. It’s just not the same," Lassiter said.

Johnston County Board of Commissioners chairman Tony Braswell told WRAL News that the county is working with CSX and state officials on solutions to address the community’s concerns.

Louis Renjel, CSX vice president for strategic infrastructure, said the company plans to hold a community meeting to discuss residents' concerns about the CCX. The date, time and location of the meeting haven't been set yet.

CSX is trying to assembly 450 acres for the terminal, and company representative began contacting landowners last week to discuss buying or taking options to buy their property, Renjel said.

"CSX doesn't have any quick-take, eminent domain powers," he said, noting opponents to the project have stirred up fears on social media that the company was going to seize all of the land it needs. "Some people want to pull the plug (on the CCX) before we've even had a conversation."

Because much of the land would need to be rezoned to accommodate a rail terminal, he said, residents have a second avenue in addition to CSX's community meeting to air their concerns and seek a compromise.

"This is a multi-year conversation," Renjel said, noting that construction on the CCX wouldn't begin before 2018.

CSX officials estimate the terminal would be a $329 million boon to the state over the next 30 years, employing 250 to 300 construction workers and creating 1,500 long-term jobs from economic growth, including warehouses and distribution centers that would likely locate nearby. The company's estimates are based on the impact of similar terminals it has built in North Baltimore, Ohio, and Chambersburg, Pa.

CCX will transfer everything from food to furniture to appliances between trucks and trains, linking the state port at Wilmington with businesses across the Southeast.

CSX has committed $150 million to the project and hopes to secure $100 million from the state's Strategic Transportation Investment fund. The remaining $22 million would come from other infrastructure and investment programs, the company said.