A federal Department of Transportation grant to improve a rail line is caught between the state and the city of North Charleston as both entities promote plans for a rail yard on the former Navy base.
The department awarded a $248,934 grant to S.C. Public Railways to relocate and realign an S-curve in North Charleston. The S-curve has contributed to several derailments, according to a Department of Transportation news release, and realigning it will improve efficiency by removing speed restrictions and improving line capacity. The rail line runs down Noisette Boulevard and curves along Turnbull Avenue, said North Charleston spokesman Ryan Johnson.
“The S-curve realignment has been needed for many years and is necessary to safely operate the rail line, meet the service requirements of (S.C. Public Railway’s) customers and support Clemson’s Wind Turbine Testing facility,” said Amy Love, spokeswoman for the state Department of Commerce, in an email. “The realignment is not related to the proposed plans for a regional dual-access intermodal container transfer facility in North Charleston.”
But, Johnson said, to use the grant and fix the rail line, S.C. Public Railways needs a Land Disturbance Permit from North Charleston.
“There are a number of folks from whom (S.C. Public Railways) would need to secure consent for the project to proceed and, to date, the city has yet to see a meeting of the minds emerge that would permit the project to move forward,” said Ray Anderson, special assistant to Mayor Keith Summey.
Anderson said the rail issue needs to be solved by “looking comprehensively at the needs and obstacles in order to find solutions that work” for the former Navy base. “Rail done right also involves the state being mindful of promises made not just to the city but also to many property owners on the base,” Anderson said.
The city and state have proposed competing rail plans for the former Navy base, and the controversy has spilled into court.
The state proposes to offer dual access to an intermodal rail yard on the former Navy base and has condemned land for the rail yard and purchased hundreds of acres out of foreclosure. The state’s plan allows Norfolk Southern to access the facility from the north, while CSX Corp. would access the facility from the south. The rail yard would serve container terminals at the S.C. State Ports Authority.
North Charleston argues that arrangement violates a 2002 memorandum of understanding between the ports authority and the city. The memorandum calls for rail access to port property only through the southern end of the container terminal.
For more on this most recent development, the ongoing dispute, and the rather nasty discourse that took place recently, please visit the originating Charleston Regional Business Journal article.