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Will commuter rail make it into Johnston County?

Ridership projections favorable; commissioners aren't on board

Katharine Eggleston, chief development officer for GoTriangle, presented results from the organization's Commuter Rail Feasibility Study to Johnston's County Commissioners Monday evening. She said it foresees one-third of potential ridership in a Durham-to-Clayton service corridor originating in Johnston County.

Even so, commissioners indicated they're not sold on Johnston's participation in the initial project after getting the figures on its estimated cost.

Ms. Eggleston said the study forecasts the total project's capital cost at $2.8-to-$3.2 billion and annual operating and maintenance expenses at $42 million. Extending service from the last Wake County stop at Auburn to a station at NC 42 at Clayton would require an estimated $100 million to build and "just under $1 million" in annual operating costs, she said.

Those numbers are based on 12,000-18,000 daily passenger boardings throughout the system's service area by 2040, she noted.

The proposed route follows the right-of-way of the North Carolina Railroad as shown on the map above. Click on the map to get an expanded, upright view.)

Commissioner Fred Smith was most adamant in opposing the project: "We've got to get out of wonder-wonderland and get back down to reality.," he said. "Whatever numbers we're talking about tonight, I can assure you the project will cost 150-to-200-percent of that."

Furthermore, the proposed project would mostly benefit Clayton, "not the whole rest of Johnston County," he continued. "You're talking about a subsidy that's going to be in the millions, every year, for as long as we're here. With all the needs that we have in Johnston County, to think that we would even entertain something like this is beyond the pale," Mr. Smith concluded.

"I have tendency to agree," responded Commissioner Dickie Braswell.

Commissioner Ted Godwin concurred: "Not in my lifetime, but at some point in the future it may be very feasible and it might be the thing to do, but at this point it would seem impractical from a cost standpoint to put it in place (and) then to operate it on an ongoing basis."

Johnston County has contributed $250,000 toward the cost of the commuter-rail study. Wake and Durham counties, meanwhile, not only contributed much more than that but also have in place half-cent sales-tax levies dedicated for transportation projects including commuter rail.

Without Johnston's participation, commuter-rail service would terminate at a station to be built at Auburn close to the future route of the I-540 "Outer Loop" around Raleigh, said Ms. Eggleston, who predicted that a large number of Johnstonians would drive to that stop to avoid Raleigh's increasing traffic congestion.

ACCESS more information about GoTriangle's commuter-rail study>

Neuse Trail feasibility report accepted; route unsettled

The County Commissioners Monday evening adopted the report presented to the board earlier this month without endorsing any of several routes proposed for extending the Neuse River Trail from Clayton to Smithfield.

Consultants who prepared the report, after months of study including feedback from the public, recommended a route that does not follow the riverbank most of the way because of topographical impediments and property owners unwilling to grant required rights of way.

"I think we'd all like to see it moved closer to the river," Commissioners' Chairman Butch Lawter said prior to the board's vote to accept the report. "We will be working on that and hope to see that adjustment over time," he added.

"We've had some interest by developers, thankfully, that want to develop along the river and want to have a trail," said Adrian O'Neal, the county's parks, greenways, and open-space coordinator. "I told them it was a cost to the county and hopefully they would help out with it."

Mr. O'Neal said adoption of the feasibility study would "definitely move the county forward" toward getting the trail constructed in the not-too-distant future.

The Neuse River Trail Feasibility Study is posted on the county's website>

Presentation of Draft Comprehensive Plan postponed

It was scheduled for Monday's meeting but was postponed till the commissioners' next regularly scheduled session on Monday, October 3 because the consultant who directed the process for developing the new plan was unable to be present.

Retail sales were up 15.1% in 2021's second quarter

Monthly reports from the N.C. Department of Revenue show Johnston County with retail sales totaling $797,383,647 during April, May, and June – up almost $105 million, or 15.1%, over sales of $692,583,414 for those three months a year ago, when sales showed a jump of 20% over numbers for the second quarter of 2020.

Chamber CEO Maureen McGuinness
selected for Business Leads Fellowship

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation has selected Maureen McGuinness, president & CEO of the Triangle East Chamber of Commerce, to participate in its Business Leads Fellowship Program. Following a competitive application and selection process, Ms. McGuinness was selected along with 34 other state and local chamber executives and economic development professionals to participate in the seventh class of the six-month program. Upon completion, Business Leads Fellows will join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s network of over 250 chambers and statewide associations across the nation in education and workforce initiatives.

All his life
he's been The Motorcycle Man

That's Edward Earl Sutton, who bought his first motorcycle when he was a teenager in the early 1950s and who has been riding – and racing when he was younger – ever since. Gary Ridout, a regular Weekly Sun contributor of stories about fascinating Smithfield folks, recently asked Mr. Sutton to share his story. Gary's interview transcript on the FEATURE PAGE>

"Trusted by families since 1977"
840 S. Bright Leaf Blvd. • 919-934-7164 •



Smithfield-Selma puts away South Johnston, 21-7

Trailing SSS 7-0 at halftime, South Johnston's Trojans tied the football game at 7-7 with a touchdown pass in the third quarter. But the Spartans responded with a TD moments later, then added a third in the fourth quarter on a 48-yard run by junior Isaiah Dawson to produce the 21-7 victory.

Senior Gerard Sanders Jr. accounted for the Spartans' other TDs, both on short runs as SSS rushed for a total 214 yards complemented by 49 yards on pass plays. Sanders led the rushing attack with 78 yards on 19 carries.

Senior Jaylen Stancil was the Spartans' defensive standout with 10 tackles, five of those resulting in negative yardage for the Trojans. SSS junior Martez Anderson had nine tackles, senior Joshua Hightower eight.

Smithfield-Selma is undefeated through its first four games of the season.

The Spartans travel to Hunt High in Wilson County for a conference match-up at 7 p.m. this Friday. Hunt lost its Quad County 3-A Conference Opener last Friday at Wayne County's C.B. Aycock High by a score of 10-7.


Last week's football scores for other Johnston County schools

 Cleveland (4-0)             44
 Corinth Holders (1-3)     0
 Clayton (1-3)              14
 Fuquay-Varina           20
 North Johnston (1-3)
 no game last Friday
 West Johnston (2-2)     14
 Wilson Fike                   35
 Princeton (3-1)           43
 Richlands                   23

Spartan soccer and volleyball teams get four wins

The SSS boys soccer team defeated Wilson Fike 2-1 on Monday and West Johnston 3-0 on Wednesday to improve their Quad County 3-A Conference record to 3-1. That brings the Spartans' season record to 3-7-2.

The SSS girls volleyball team defeated Southeast Raleigh 3-0 on Monday and conference foe East Wake 3-0 on Tuesday to bring the Spartans' season record to 5-9 overall, 1-6 in Quad County 3-A matches.

Neuse Charter volleyball team 2-0 in conference play

Neuse Charter's girls volleyball team is 10-3 overall, 2-0 in Carolina 1-A Conference matches following last Thursday's win over Hobbton High. The Cougar girls host conference foe Lakewood at 5:30 p.m. today (Thursday).

The Cougars' boys soccer team is 4-3 overall, 0-2 in conference play after Monday's 10-2 loss at North Duplin and Wednesday's 10-1 defeat at Hobbton.




Downtown's Third StrEATery outdoor dining this Friday

It's the next-to-last event of this year's monthly series, this Friday featuring entertainment by Carolina Soul Band. There's no admission charge for joining the party in the 100 block of South Third Street where tables will be set up for patrons of nearby restaurants to enjoy their meals. The event continues from 6 to 9 p.m.

Forum on county's first regional park at SRAC Tuesday

Johnston County's first regional park is being planned for a site in the Cleveland community near the intersection of Matthews and Polenta roads. The county's Parks and Open Space Program will host a public forum about it next Tuesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Smithfield Recreation and Aquatics Center. The plan may be viewed online at

Smithfield-born judicial pioneer's biographer to speak

A path-breaking African-American attorney and judge from Smithfield will be the topic of a book talk at the Johnston County Heritage Center at 7 p.m. next Thursday (Sept. 29). Historian Virginia L. Summey of Winston-Salem will discuss her book, The Life of Elreta Melton Alexander: Activism Within the Courts (University of Georgia Press, 2022). Often called "Judge A," she was the first African-American woman to graduate from Columbia Law School (1945), to practice law in North Carolina (1947), and to be elected as a district court judge (1968). She was born in Smithfield while her father was pastor of First Missionary Baptist Church, but most of her life and career were spent in Greensboro. For additional information, visit the Heritage Center’s Facebook page>

There's still time for a countdown to Autumnal Equinox

The astronomical arrival of the new season comes at 9:04 p.m. today (Thursday) when the Sun hovers directly above the Equator to produce days and nights of equal length. From now through the Winter Solstice on December 21 our minutes of daylight will be on a steady decline – by two to three minutes each day.


Click on the name to read an obituary, usually posted by the funeral home

STACY GLENN LEE, 77 – died September 19

DWENDLE ESTELLA OATES McLEAN, 93 – died September 19

MARTHA THROCKMORTON POPE, 72 – died September 19

FRANKLIN LEE HOLLIS, 83 – died September 15

HORTENSE TINA GARDNER, 73 – died September 10



Is anyone worried about COVID infection anymore?

We're 30 months into the official start of the coronavirus pandemic and life appears to be pretty much back to normal, around here at least. Nevertheless, Johnstonians continue to get COVID-19 infections, although the severity of cases and the number of fatalities have lessened considerably since the peak of the pandemic last year.

One point of continuing concern is the number of cases reported among students and staff in Johnston County Public Schools, which has maintained its COVID dashboard despite the lifting of mask mandates. This morning's report shows a total of 97 active cases within the entire school system – 79 of those among students and 18 among staff. Fortunately, none of those cases are found among Smithfield-area schools. The highest number is 16 at Cleveland High School.

For Johnston County as a whole, the chart below provides an update with numbers from this week's report by the N.C. Department of  Health and Human Services plus national and worldwide statistics from Johns Hopkins University as of this morning:


Total cases
since 3-2020

(# on 7-27-22)
since 3-2020

(# on 7-27-22)
Fully vaccinated
[got boosters]
115,037: 55%
[61,137: 29%]
6,088,284: 63%
UNITED STATES 95,876,620
224.6 million
WORLDWIDE 613,600,659
total doses
Meanwhile, the Johnston County Public Health Department announced this week that free COVID-19 testing will no longer be offered on Saturdays but will continue to be available Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Thursdays from 10 to 3 at 601-B North Eighth Street behind the hospital. For more information on testing, vaccines, and more visit

Furthermore, booster shots are recommended for just about everyone – just as flu shots are routinely advised for many of us. Both COVID and influenza aren't expected to vanish from our environments any time soon.

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