By Paul Gable
Last week’s first meeting of the new committee discussing the state of the Carolina Southern Railroad comprised not much more than organizational work.
Comprised of public officials and prominent business people, the committee draws representation from Horry, Marion and Brunswick (NC) counties.
Shutdown since August 2011, he railroad has spent approximately $400,000 repairing bridges along the line, but estimates at least another $1.5 million must be spent to complete the bridge repairs.
One sentiment did emerge from the meeting. There is no interest currently in using public dollars to pay for the repairs to get the line back in operation. Several Horry County council members said, separately from the meeting, that they would not support ‘just giving’ money to the railroad.
Reportedly, Carolina Southern owner Ken Pippin told the committee there was no money available in the railroad to pay for repairs and that it would take money from government or other outside sources to get the railroad moving again.
Carolina Southern was passed over twice in the last two years on TIGER grant applications to the federal government for infrastructure stimulus funds.
At the same time, two of the largest users of Carolina Southern rail service, the Grainger electric plant in Conway and the Martin Marietta Materials plant on Ron McNair Boulevard have significantly reduced operations making it questionable how much new freight traffic they would move in the future.
One thing is certain, there will be no trains running on Carolina Southern tracks in the near future. What will develop from there we will have to wait and see.