The U.S. Census Bureau reported that from 2007 to 2008 South Carolina was among the 10 fastest-growing states in the nation resulting mostly from people moving in from other states. The Bureau estimates that in 2009 the state’s population had reached nearly 4.6 million. In 2000 it was four million, and the growth has continued. South Carolina Transportation Secretary Buck Limehouse says with the rapid growth of population and the industry that is following puts a greater strain on the state’s transportation system. In 2008, the SCDOT approved The South Carolina Statewide Comprehensive Multimodal Long-Range Transportation Plan, which includes a rapid rail transit system to relieve growing congestion on the state’s roadways. Limehouse says a state system would be developed in concert with proposed regional plans to connect metro areas in the Southeast.
The programs that are being studied right not are from Raleigh to Atlanta, and then Raleigh down to Columbia to Jacksonville. We’re trying to get the (South Carolina) coast added to that through our office of planning. We’re thinking of a line that comes down through Florence and Charleston then on to Savannah.
Limehouse is hopeful that the numbers recorded in the 2010 Census would earn South Carolina a seventh congressional district which he says would likely mean more federal money for transportation projects.
The rapid rail travel suggested for the future would feature trains running at 150 mph or above so commuters could travel longer distances and would not have to add to the growing congestion on the highways. Limehouse says for now his department is focusing on maintaining existing roads and bridges, including the widening of some interstates near metro areas to take care of the growing traffic flow.
“Those plans for high speed rail are out in the future, they depend on a lot of federal funds, and federal government has the same problems we do, so I wouldn’t want to hold out that being a short-term solution, but clearly in the long run we’re going to have to go to more mass transit.”