Businesses oppose closing Raleigh streets for high-speed rail
Posted November 30, 2010 4:11 p.m. EST
Updated November 30, 2010 7:12 p.m. EST
Raleigh, N.C. — Businesses in west Raleigh have started a petition drive to keep area streets open once high-speed trains start using a nearby rail line.
Burke Brothers Hardware has been in business at 5227 Hillsborough Street since 1936, and Henry Burke, the third generation running the family business, says that he fears high-speed rail will separate him from some of his customers.
Tracks along Hillsborough Street, which are now used by Amtrak and freight trains, will likely become part of a high-speed rail corridor connecting Charlotte to Washington, D.C. To improve safety, Powell Drive and other side streets could be closed to eliminate rail crossings.
"It's going to hurt. There's no way around that. It's going to hurt our business. It's going to hurt a lot of people, all those businesses here," Burke said Tuesday. "We want to be able to get from that side of the track to this side of the track."
Blue Ridge Road, which is about three-fourths of a mile to the east, would likely be made into an overpass or underpass to accommodate the rail line, but some Burke Brothers' customers said they wouldn't use that route to get to the hardware store.
"I may go somewhere else so I'm not stuck in traffic," customer Jim Heilig said.
About 1,200 people have signed a petition against closing nearby streets to accommodate the trains, and Burke said about half of those people want to have high-speed rail.
"(We want) to keep our crossing open or use an underpass," he said. "We're just trying to keep connectivity through there and keep west Raleigh a viable and growing place."
Raleigh City Councilman Thomas Crowder said underpasses are needed on side streets to help with ambulance response times and business development.
The state Department of Transportation is expected to hold workshops in the coming months to iron out details of the high-speed rail corridor and its impact on surrounding neighborhoods.
Burke, who has worked in the family business since he was 10, said he wants it to remain open for at least one more generation.
"We want to be a part of the progress, not get run over by it," he said.