The Henderson City Council voted unanimously to approve a resolution in support of proposed high speed rail (HSR) service through the city, the location of a railroad station in downtown Henderson, and the refurbishing and creation of new railroad crossings.
The resolution was not, however, a unilateral acceptance of all the changes that have been proposed for Henderson by the state because of the new railway.
According to City Manager Ray Griffin, the resolution does multiple things. It indicates the city council’s full support for the implementation of HSR, fully supports the location of an HSR station in downtown Henderson, and supports a pedestrian railroad crossing on Peachtree Street.
The resolution also requests that any road reconfiguration include sidewalks and bikeways to facilitate pedestrian and “multi-mobile” transportation through the city.
Proposed closings and changes to railroad crossings in Henderson will reduce a current seventeen crossings to six.
“That’s a huge impact,” Griffin said. He went on to say that the new crossings need to be tied into the local street network as seamlessly as possible.
In the case of railroad crossings at Andrews Avenue and J.P. Taylor Road, the resolution calls for on- and off-ramps to access the crossings. Where the Chevasse Avenue crossing is to be closed, the resolution requests consideration of providing an underpass like that at Charles Street.
The location of an underpass at Chevasse Avenue is considered important for the passage of emergency vehicles to the eastern half of the city.
Griffin affirmed that the city wants the HSR and the economic improvement it can potentially bring, but at the same time it wants the crossings to be “as well-done as possible” to meet the city’s future needs for growth and prosperity.
Member Mike Rainey questioned the crossings proposal when there has been no definite indication that the HSR will have a stop in Henderson. He also expressed concern that the proposed railroad has “taken some houses” in Raleigh.
Rainey said he is trying to “envision what industry [HSR] will bring when it is transportation for carrying people out of our area”.
The council member said that he would hate to see the town bisected or divided by decisions made by those other than local government.
Member Mike Inscoe said that it does not make a difference what the council decides other than trying to improve the crossings that will remain.
“The others will be closed and we won’t have a lot of say in it,” Inscoe said.
Inscoe expressed that the city needs to convince the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) that there are some “tweeks” that needs to be made and that the city would like to look at having the Chavasse Avenue crossing open and another closed.
City Attorney John Zollicoffer stated a concern about the current railroad right-of-way. Currently, the right-of-way is 100 feet.
In that configuration, Williams Street would be affected. Williams Street is the only downtown street that runs north-south on the east side of the railroad tracks.
Griffin proposed adding a sixth item to the resolution that would address corridor encroachments on existing businesses to be presented at a public hearing on an HSR environmental study to be held today at Aycock Elementary School, 305 Carey Chapel Road in Henderson, North Carolina. That proposal was accepted by members before the final vote on the issue.