By Paul Gable
The Horry County Infrastructure and Regulation Committee heard an update on the Carolina Southern Railroad last week as the railroad looks to restart service.
Carolina Southern voluntarily shut down operations August 30, 2011, after new Federal Railroad Administration regulations identified issues with bridges along the railroad’s lines.
“We have put millions of dollars into bridges over the last couple of years,” said General Manager Jason Pippin. “However, we still have issues with three strategically located bridges that are keeping us from running.”
Pippin told the committee that the railroad is currently seeking $750,000-$1,000,000 to fix the issues that would allow the railroad to return to operations.
Pippin said the railroad would be applying for a Tiger 4 Grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to help with upgrading the rails and bridges. Applications opened February 1, 2012 for approximately $500 million in grant money from the department.
“We appreciate Horry County taking the lead in the Tiger 3 grant application with Marion and Columbus counties joining in,” said Pippin. “It’s easier to get considered for a grant when local governments are involved.”
Horry County led an attempt to get a grant for Carolina Southern in the last round (Tiger 3) of grants. The railroad sought $22 million in grant money to conduct a complete overhaul of its system. The grant application was unsuccessful.
“The government awarded about $534 million in grants, but had applications for projects totaling $17 billion, so it’s very competitive,” said Pippin. “The federal government looks for a 40-50 percent match from local governments when considering grant awards.”
Horry County Council would have to approve county staff again taking the lead for a Tiger 4 grant.
I&R chairman Jody Prince asked what input the Myrtle Beach Regional Economic Development Corporation had made on the railroad situation.
“The EDC set up an ad hoc railroad committee,” said Pippin. “The committee has had one meeting so far that was basically a get to know you meeting.”
“It will be very important for me to hear what the EDC committee has to say,” said Prince.
For now, the railroad line remains closed while railroad management continues to search for $750,000-$1,000,000 in funds to conduct immediate repairs to the three bridges that are causing the current shutdown.