Wayne chasing CSX terminal after Johnston site rejected

Posted January 27, 2016 5:18 p.m. EST
Updated January 27, 2016 7:33 p.m. EST

— Wayne County officials have quickly jumped on the prospect of landing a major CSX cargo hub after the company's preferred site in Johnston County was taken off the table on Tuesday.

CSX wants to build a $272 million terminal that would connect to its rail network and provide a major transshipment point for container cargo to and from North Carolina ports. The company had staked out a 450-acre site near Selma, but local opposition to the project built in recent weeks among property owners who feared being forced to sell their land.

Last week, the Johnston County Board of Commissioners came out against the proposed terminal, known as the Carolina Connector, and the Governor's Office acceded to the opposition on Tuesday, saying the Selma site "does not appear to be a viable option."

CSX officials said Wednesday that they still want to build a terminal in North Carolina, but they declined to comment on possible sites.

"CSX is committed to this infrastructure project, which will create jobs, deliver a distinct competitive advantage for large and small businesses and spur economic development," the company said in a statement. "We look forward to working with all interested stakeholders to address concerns and move the project forward."

Wayne County officials have already contacted CSX and are sharpening their pitch for the project, which would create hundreds of construction jobs and could lead to about 1,500 jobs statewide once it's operational.

"We're closing Cherry Hospital here, and the acreage is available there," said Joe Daughtery, chairman of the Wayne County Board of Commissioners, referring to a state mental hospital in Goldsboro. "There is one spot that acreage is available that the state already owns the property, so actually, they could use that property as the incentive rather than the dollars."

CSX last fall requested $100 million in state transportation funding to help pay for the project.

"We expect a visit in the near future," Daughtery said.

Johnston County officials say they plan to continue pursuing the project, just not at the Selma site.

"We're not supportive of the project on that particular footprint, but we're also keeping that door open because we know this will be a great project," Johnston County Manager Rick Hester said. "I'm fairly optimistic that it can be in our area."

The North Carolina State Ports Authority passed a resolution Wednesday supporting the Carolina Connector and urging state and local officials to work with CSX to make it a reality.