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Rail details delay commission review

Oversight commission awaiting news on costs

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Incomplete rail plans from both S.C. Public Railways and CSX have delayed presentations to the state's Port Review and Oversight Commission. Presentations are expected, possibly by the second week of March, in Columbia and Charleston.

The two sides have a vision for rail access to the new North Charleston port terminal at the old Navy Yard. S.C. Public Railways would create a state-maintained rail terminal servicing CSX and rival train company Norfolk Southern. The City of North Charleston has sued the state, angered about a promise made by the State Ports Authority in 2002 that the port would be serviced exclusively from the southern end of the new terminal. City officials have supported CSX and its plan for a private facility south of the terminal that would provide access for Norfolk Southern cargo at a nominal cost.

At a community meeting in support of the Public Railways plan earlier this week, state Rep. David Mack (D-North Charleston) told the crowd that a fair vetting would come through the forums hosted by the oversight commission. "That's going to be a very important meeting when all sides will be there," Mack said. "At that point, all the plans will be presented."

Chairman Larry Grooms, a state senator who also chair's the senate's Transportation Committee, tells the City Paper he has requested more information from both. Particularly, he's looking for information on costs, including indirect cots like overpasses that will be necessary. "Neither group provided all the information that was requested," Grooms says. "The main thing I need from them is cost estimates for each part of their plan."

Even though the commission's request for the plans focused on the impact the new rail terminal will have on port operations, Grooms says the commission will consider the impacts each plan will have on the community.

Grooms also seemed ready to adjust plans, if possible. "We may end up endorsing something that has components of each plan," he says. "I want both presenters to take a hard look at the other presenter's plan."

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