Local News

Raleigh trolley tracks reappear in roundabout way

Posted January 7, 2010 6:51 p.m. EST
Updated January 7, 2010 7:07 p.m. EST

— A project for Raleigh's future has uncovered a glimpse into the city's past.

Crews installing a sewer line beneath a new traffic circle at the intersection of Hillsborough and Morgan streets recently unearthed streetcar tracks that date to 1891.

Karl Larson, a graphic designer at North Carolina State University and a self-proclaimed expert on Raleigh's streetcar system, said electric trolleys used to fan out in various directions from the State Capitol.

"The tracks were extended to what was called suburbs. Of course, N.C. State was a suburb back then," Larson said. "One line came all the way out to the fairgrounds to bring passengers out."

A century ago, he noted, the State Fairgrounds were across Hillsborough Street from where the D.H. Hill Library now sits on the N.C. State campus.

"Another line went all the way out to what is now the Carolina Country Club," he said.

Carolina Power & Light, the forerunner of Progress Energy, operated the streetcar system, which was phased out in 1933 as automobiles became the preferred mode of transportation around Raleigh, Larson said.

"The streetcars were scrapped. The tracks were left in place," he said.

The city eventually paved over the tracks and forgot they were there until the recent discovery.

Ken Dunn, an engineer for the city, said officials are working to take up some of the tracks and preserve them, possibly moving them to an area museum or incorporating them into other projects around Raleigh.

"There's a desire to hold on to those tracks and hold on to that history," Dunn said.

He said the preservation effort will likely add $20,000 to $30,000 to the cost of building the roundabout, which is among several traffic circles planned to improve traffic flow on Hillsborough Street. It also will delay completing the project by a few weeks, he said, adding that it still should be finished by late summer.