Officials with the federal Department of Transportation this week awarded a nearly $10 million grant that will help restore the Myrtle Beach region’s only rail line connection to the rest of the country.
The office of Congressman Tom Rice, R-SC, announced Tuesday the DOT awarded $9.7 million to help upgrade the former Carolina Southern short rail line that runs from Conway and Mullins and connects with another larger line in Chadbourn, NC. The Federal Rail Administration (FRA) shut down the line in 2011 due to deteriorated bridges.
Last year, Kentucky-based RJ Corman acquired the 80 miles of track and did the repairs needed to reopen the line in March under new ownership. However, RJ Corman Carolinas Assistant Vice President Bill Henderson said the line needs an overhaul to handle larger trains so they can travel faster than the current requirement of 10 miles per-hour.
“It had fallen into disrepair and it was unsafe to operate on,” Henderson told South Carolina Radio Network. “When we acquired it, it obviously had been in real disrepair and it requires a tremendous amount of investment to bring it up to an RJ Corman standard.”
Henderson said the money will go towards strengthening the tracks and ties so the rails can handle heavier trains and at faster speeds. Currently, trains are required to travel at no more than 10 miles per-hour along the line. The company hopes the upgrades will allow it to instead move cargo at 25 mph.
Horry County will administer the money. RJ Corman said it hopes an improved line will attract more businesses to the Grand Strand region that are reluctant at the present time due to a lack of rail access.