South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia are working together to compete for a grant amounting to $7 million. The money would be for developing a plan for a high speed rail corridor to run through the Upstate.
And state rail manager Roy Tolson says this kind of partnership is what the Federal Railroad administration is looking for:
They’re looking for states for this type collaboration, and of course, the Upstate high speed rail corridor, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, have partnered before on this route. And so this is just another step in hopefully bringing high speed rail to the Upstate of South Carolina.
The Upstate is depending on the application filed by Georgia. The announcement will be made within the next week or two.
In May of this year, Georgia, on the behalf of South Carolina, North Carolina, applied for a FRA grant through the FY-10 announcement for approximately $7 million for a study on an Upstate high speed rail corridor basically from Charlotte through South Carolina down to Atlanta.
Tolson explains the federal money allows for a study of the rail corridor:
This study would do what’s known as a tier one environmental document, which is the next step to sort of take a high level look of the corridor along there to see if there’s any show stoppers along this route. And then once that’s determined, the next step would do a tier two environmental document which is a more on-the-ground look at the exact route and where it would go and how many stops and through the three states.
Tolson says the Charlotte to Atlanta route would work off of an existing rail line with interim speeds up to 90 miles an hour, eventually to reach 120 miles an hour.
It’s the route from Charlotte through Spartanburg, Greenville over to Atlanta down to the Macon area. There’s an existing Norfolk Southern rail line through there. That would be part of the study to look at that and see if it could be upgraded any to allow for passenger rail service. Of course, currently an Amtrak service runs on that line. Their maximum speed is up to 79 miles an hour now.
One of the questions this multi-million dollar rail study can answer is how much money will be generated along the corridor. Another question is how to handle freight and passenger service on the same line.
We have to be very mindful whenever we do that. There’s a tremendous amount of freight traffic on that Norfolk Southern line up in the Upstate. We’d have to look at their schedule which is part of the study to see how much room there is to provide for passenger rail service. If not, do we need to build long sidings in order for one to pass the other, or do we need to build totally new separate line for passenger rail service?
Tolson, the rail director for the state department of transportation, says his hopes include the Upstate, and one for the lower part of South Carolina as well, to be called the Riley Corridor, running from Columbia to Savannah.