SPA President, North Charleston leaders discuss rail plan

NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCIV)Call it a meeting of the minds, at the center of the North Charleston rail plan.

State Ports Authority President Jim Newsome, sat down with Mayor Keith Summey and the Committee of the Whole Thursday, to discuss the controversial proposed rail yard.

Mayor Summey described the question and answer session as cordial- but after all was said and done; Newsome chose to remain neutral on the often heated debate.

The city of North Charleston filed suit against the South Carolina Department of Commerce last month - saying the state violated a 2002 Memorandum of Understanding entered into by both the city and the state.

Last month, North Charleston leaders also learned of the states plan to take nearly 70 acres of public land including the future site of Clemson University's wind turbine facility as well as condemned property.

{}During Thursday's meeting, Newsome attempted to stay out of the fray.

"To be a competitive port, we need to have rail access basically, we've said that the right entities to address this issue are at the table - that being the public railways and the two class run railroads, and we are optimistic they will find a solution," he said.

When asked about that solution Mayor Keith Summey said understands Newsome's position but wished that the SPA would side with the city.

"The last thing we want is a long drawn out legal battle - its not good for the port, it's not good for South Carolina and it's not good for North Charleston," Summey said.

Newsome and city leaders also discussed port container volume saying that the new rail yard would produce about a 25 percent boost in container truck traffic.

"Everybody has a viewpoint in this issue and as I said the railroads and public railways are the empowered entities to solve this. I think there is a solution and I think the solution can make our port better," Newsome said.

{}The commerce department says the agreement was between the city and the state ports authority and therefore is not binding.

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