Members of the House have sustained Governor Mark Sanford’s veto on an amendment that would have opened up the doors for a state agency to control rail access into the Port of Charleston. House Speaker Bobby Harrell says it’s all about keeping competition between the two carriers, Norfolk Southern and CSX, bringing business to the state.
“The issue is we need to make sure we get rail access, in fact, dual rail access into the shipyard, but that’s not the way to do it. So, we’re gonna try to come at this at a different direction to make sure we have rail in and out of the port once we get it done,” says Harrell.
North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said earlier this week opening up rail access through the northern end of the port undermines the agreement made with the State Ports Authority in a memorandum in 2002. The reason for the dispute is because if rail lines ran through North Charleston to the northern end, a community that Mayor Summey is revitalizing would be, in their words, “destroyed,” possibly marking down the value of homes and property. Harrell says there are other ways to get rail access to the port.
“You could come in from the south, which my understanding is, the mayor up there is fine with doing, and the folks in North Charleston are fine with doing. To come in from the south you have some issues you have to deal with CSX and Norfolk Southern, the two rail lines, that we’ve gotta work through to get it done. There are a couple of ways to skin this cat, the bottom line is when the dust settles, we need to make sure we have rail access,” says Harrell.
The General Assembly is scheduled to vote on the reorganization of the State Ports Authority, though time is running out in the session.