It’s a lifeline many businesses say they need to operate, but Carolina Southern Railroad says it can’t get its trains back on the track until major upgrades to the system are made. Officials had hoped to make those upgrades with money from a TIGER grant it had applied for in 2011, but recently found out it would not be getting that critical funding.
More than 848 applications were received for the grant, totaling more than $14 million. However, only $511 million was available to distribute to projects across the nation. Carolina Southern Railroad officials say in all, an estimated $20 million is needed to make necessary repairs and upgrades to the railroad and to get operations running again. Once that funding is secured, officials believe the railroad could start service just two weeks after repairs start.
“Everyone sees the need and the necessity to have this railroad running,” Jason Pippin, of Carolina Southern Railroad, said. “This is a railroad that goes way beyond that. It goes into all the other businesses we serve and really getting this infrastructure running.” The Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation says there have been businesses eyeing up Horry County for future growth who need a rail system to operate. They say not having the service in operation hurts Horry County’s chances to expand on new industry and court jobs to the area. An MBREDC subcommittee has been formed to help Carolina Southern Railroad address the problem.
“We talk to the state and we talk to federal entities,” Pippin added. “We can go together as a group and say this represents all of us.” Right now, officials with CSR say they’re continuing to pursue additional investors and federal grants to help draw in money to make the necessary upgrades. “It’s not just me looking for money to fix my railroad. We’re fixing a railroad for years to come for all these customers,” Pippin said.