Charleston, South Carolina Railyard Plans are Steaming Ahead

Posted : 01/17/13 11:02 AM

The railroad industry’s resurgence to facilitate US and global commerce is seeding the plans of state commerce departments to improve port infrastructure as many states are looking to dedicate railway connections from the logistics hubs to the maritime ports. After much conflict of interests and public/private sector land disputes, South Carolina and the city of North Charleston are in détente as plans for the new Intermodal Railyard get underway. History of Disparity with North Charleston and S.C. Commerce Department In 2010, the city of North Charleston was not initially on board with the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s visionary plans for the proposed rail yard to be located on the former Charleston Naval Base where it would be accessible by both the Norfolk Southern and CSX Corporation rail lines. The S.C. Commerce department’s position projected the Intermodal Railyard development would strengthen state and local businesses, bringing increased commerce to the port of Charleston. However, North Charleston had different concerns. The city’s contention was to maintain private ownership of the land and its vested interest was residential protection and its riverfront attractions. North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey brought a lawsuit against the S.C. Commerce department, citing the state’s disregard of its 2002 SPA (State Ports Authority) agreement in that the proposed Railyard would infringe upon city development efforts; entering into a protracted, pending litigation with the state over the dispute. The proposed North Charleston Railyard Steams Ahead with Mutual Settlement Terms Earlier this month, December 4, 2012, both North Charleston and S.C. Department of Commerce’s Public Railways reached settlement terms over the Railyard proposal. The settlement terms allow South Carolina to build its intermodal container transfer facility – strategically located on the former Charleston Naval Base, to be accessible by both the state’s Class I rail lines. The settlement has S.C. State commerce department anticipating the rapid growth of commerce through the Charleston port with the widening of the Panama Canal, proposed for 2014. Also, North Charleston will benefit from increased business and job growth. One significant feature of the settlement is dual property control of the former naval base in North Charleston and Public Railways Division. Public Railways gains controlling interest in property apportioned for development of the Railyard and logistics infrastructure while North Charleston’s allotment of property control will be the waterfront areas of its interest in residential and recreational development. Charleston’s city council voted on the Railyard proposal and agreed to provide administrative support for implementation issues such as permits and zoning. The city is anticipatory of attracting investment ventures and jobs. “With today’s vote by North Charleston City Council, everyone in South Carolina wins…,” expressed South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley.