By Paul Gable
With a new direction beginning at Coast RTA, it would be a good time to look at all potential mass transit within Horry County.
Horry County owns the 14 mile stretch of railroad and right of way between Conway and Myrtle Beach as well as the former Y track and air base spur.
If the county and Coast RTA are genuinely interested in looking at all mass transit options for the future, this section of railroad should not be overlooked.
The county’s stretch of rail could serve five industrial areas (including ITAP at the airport), seven blue collar neighborhoods and 11 destination areas such as Broadway at the Beach, Market Common, and the Pelicans ballpark among others.
There are some obstacles. Sections of the track would have to be repaired and some new track laid where old sections have been removed, but the right of way exists and that is always the main obstacle to rail service. This would merely be taking advantage of an old, neglected asset.
Part of the cost of the system could be recovered from right of way encroachment fees that were formerly collected and used by the Carolina Southern Railroad. Federal money is available for mass transit light rail systems that Horry County is not currently getting its share of.
The concept may not work, but it should at least be studied, something that could be accomplished for about one-tenth of the cost to Coast RTA of its failed shelter program.
Coast RTA has plans for an intermodal transportation study, why not include light rail in the mix? Especially when the basic layout that could provide transportation for locals to work, tourists to desired destinations and, even, help with the movement of freight for businesses.
The county has wasted more than 18 months participating in the non-official “Interstate Railroad Committee of North and South Carolina” attempting to wrest control of what remains of Carolina Southern from Ken Pippin. That hasn’t gone very well.
Why not spend time studying potential uses of rail it already owns?