All Key Players in Rail Plan Battle It Out

By: Natalie Caula

Charleston, SC- All the key players in the battle over the rail plan for North Charleston's new port terminal are battling it out face to face Thursday.

South Carolina's Review and Oversight Commission on the S. C. State Ports Authority, chaired by members of the state's legislature, are holding a meeting at the College of Charleston. Representatives from each rail company, CSX and Norfolk will both make presentations. Port users and other interested parties will have a chance to comment as well, including the Maritime Association, the City of North Charleston, Coastal Conservation League, Clemson University Restoration Institute and LAMC (Lowcountry Alliance for Model Communities).

The battle has been gaining momentum the last few weeks, with many of its key players making publicly commenting on the plan.

What is the battle?

With construction of the new port terminal moving forward at the former Navy base, two rail companies want to have port access for their rails to ship out containers.

CSX Transportation, Shipyard Creek Associates, and the City of North Charleston in their plan that would transform Shipyard Creek's Macalloy property and CSXS Cooper Yard into an intermodal rail yard. It would give them near-dock rail access.{} North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey wants to prevent any trains coming from the north end of the old Charleston Naval base. He doesn't want port traffic passing through an area that is part of a $1 billion urban renewal project.

"Our plan is the only plan that holds up to the promise that this port made to the city of North Charleston," CSX Transportation Vice President of Emerging Markets, Frederick Eliasson said.

Norfolk Southern, which is the only rail line that services Dorchester County, wants equal access to the SPA terminal. Dorchester County Council sent a letter supporting this plan to the oversight commission. Council says the proposed CSX plan would affect the county's ability to attract industry, since they've developed sites along Norfolk's routes to attract business.

Norfolk Southern Corp. Vice President of Business Development, Robert Martinez followed Mr. Eliasson's comments Friday by saying CSX's proposal would place the port at a serious competitive disadvantage.

"The state and the Port should not support, nor spend money, nor seek to place federal money, on a project that would limit the region's ability to compete by limiting which markets will be served," Martinez said.

But some lawmakers say it's better for the state to have a competitive rail yard accessible to both lines.

Tune into ABC News 4 at 6 and 7 P.M. and check back here for updates and find out what is at stake.






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