Railroad pedestrian underpass formally dedicated

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert joined with leaders from the North Carolina Railroad Company on Sept. 1, 2010, to formally dedicate a railroad underpass that safely connects both sides of campus for pedestrians.

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert (left), North Carolina Railroad Company President Scott Saylor and Lynn Hansen, CFO and division manager for Crowder Construction Company, cut a ribbon to formally open a pedestrian railroad underpass connecting Lebanon and Trollinger avenues.

Dozens of people attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony on Trollinger Avenue, including state, county and town leaders, as well as Elon students, faculty and staff.

The tunnel links Lebanon Avenue with Trollinger Avenue. It is the result of a five-year joint project between the North Carolina Railroad Company and Elon University at a cost of $2.5 million. HNTB Engineering and Crowder Construction Company designed and built the tunnel, respectively.

According to Operation Lifesaver, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting safety around railroads, North Carolina ranked No. 9 among states with the most rail trespasser fatalities in 2009 with 15 deaths. The state ranked No. 11 in crossing accidents in 2009 with 54 collisions, 30 of which resulted in injuries and eight resulted in deaths.

Lambert opened the ceremony by ringing a bell that once belonged to Graham College, the predecessor to Elon, and itself a former part of the North Carolina Railroad Company. Meneely Bell Foundry in West Troy, N.Y., cast the bell in 1853 for Richard Norris & Son Locomotive Works of Philadelphia.

It arrived in North Carolina in 1854 atop one of the first North Carolina Railroad locomotives purchased from Norris. “This bell represents an important and rare piece of railroad history, and it also represents an important and rare piece of Elon history,” Lambert said.

The president lauded the railroad for its role in shaping North Carolina’s higher education system. Eighteen colleges and universities sit within two miles of the railroad corridor.

Elon University President Leo M. Lambert rang the historic Graham College bell, which had previously been used by the North Carolina Railroad, to open the Sept. 1 underpass dedication ceremony.

“Where would higher education in the state of North Carolina be if it wasn’t for the railroad?” Lambert said. “There are people here today who can remember students coming to Elon for years on the train. We owe our life blood and livelihood to this railroad.”

Scott Saylor, president of the North Carolina railroad, and Lynn Hansen, chief financial officer and division manage for Crowder Construction Company, offered remarks as well.

“This is the first time our organization has partnered with a university on a project,” Saylor said. “Because of this, we’re now in preliminary talks with UNCG about a project there.”

The North Carolina Railroad Company owns and manages the 317-mile rail corridor extending from Morehead City to Charlotte. The railroad carries 60 freight trains and eight passenger trains daily.