Friday, July 9, 2010

Details of the North Charleston Rail Plan

On Thursday, July 8, 2010, North Charleston Mayor R. Keith Summey publicly presented a three-party Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and Agreement between the City of North Charleston, CSX Transportation, and Shipyard Creek Associates, LLC to address the ongoing rail issues surrounding the former Charleston Naval Base and the southern portions of the City.  City Council unanimously agreed to move the MOU forward to Committee of the Whole for additional discussion. Pending City Council's approval, final adoption would be later in August.

Download the full MOU and Agreement here. (Synopsis below)

Slides from Mayor Summey's presentation

The City long ago announced its intention to see Northern rail service to the Navy Base terminated in favor of a new Southern route.  After years of effort, the City of North Charleston has been able to reach an agreement with Shipyard Creek Associates, LLC, and CSX Transportation that would, if seen to fruition, make this a reality.  The MOU and agreement sets forth a long-term, multi-year plan by which CSX Transportation would abandon its rights of way beginning at a mutually-agreed upon location between Clement Avenue and Viaduct Road and extending Northward to just North of the intersection of Braddock Road.  CSX Transportation will discontinue its rail operation over the old routes in favor of a new Southern access route and rail yard.  The new rail yard would not be permitted to operate prior to abandonment of the old lines.

In support of the outlined plan, the City may contribute certain city-owned property and assist CSX Transportation in acquiring other property for use in the Southern access route.  In addition, the City would commit to use TIF money (if available) to purchase from CSX Transportation the rights of way associated with certain portions of CSX Transportation’s old line locations.  The anticipated cost of the City’s purchase obligations would be between $3 and $5 million dollars.  Additional project funding would come from federal grants sought by the developer.  In the event that the TIF and/or federal grants do not generate sufficient funds then the parties would have the option, but not obligation, to contribute other sources of revenue later.

It is important to note that CSX Transportation’s obligations are subject to several contingencies.  One of the more notable of these is funding.  The proposed plan is heavily dependent upon federal grant financing and the existence of sufficient property tax revenues to permit bonding against City TIF districts.  Another is that CSX Transportation must be up and running on the newly-established lines before it would relinquish any rights to the pre existing lines.  Obstacles to the project, whether they are from lawsuit, funding, governmental regulation, or other sources, could mean that the project may have to be abandoned.  If the project failed then any land or TIF money the City previous contributed would be returned to it to the fullest possible extent.  If the project is successful, the City will have succeeded in relocating rail access to the Base and new SPA terminal from the North to the South, thus improving the quality of life within some of North Charleston’s oldest neighborhoods.

City of North Charleston MOU Synopsis

The MOU between the City of North Charleston, CSX and Shipyard Creek Associates can be broken down into three key components which are outlined below.  This document is a win-win for the community, the City and the railroad because they all will be able to see the fulfillment of some of their long-range goals.  This MOU honors and further advances the existing MOU between the City and the State by routing rail out the southern end of the City as opposed to the northern end of the Navy Base through residential neighborhoods.

1. Abandonment of the Rail Along Spruill Avenue

  • CSX would abandon through Rails to Trails or by deeding to the City the property the rail occupies along Spruill from approximately Braddock to approximately Viaduct.
  • The total acreage that the City will receive is 32+/- acres.
  • The City Comprehensive Plan, LAMC Plan and the Noisette Plan all call for the removal of this rail to allow Park Circle, Olde North Charleston, Century Oaks, Horizon Village, Noisette, Union Heights and Chicora-Cherokee neighborhoods to be re-knitted back together.
  • No rail would come through Chicora-Cherokee and rail would be shifted out of the Park Circle area.
  • Potential for a greenway for pedestrian and bicycle connection to Downtown Charleston.
2. Redevelopment of the Stromboli Corridor
  • Through federal grants the City will purchase 40+/- acres of industrial land along the Stromboli Corridor.
  • Area has been targeted by LAMC as a redevelopment area to re-knit Union Heights, Windsor Place, Chicora Cherokee and Jacksonville Road Area.
  • City will use the land for community revitalization working closely with LAMC.
  • A new overflow rail line would be run through the Stromboli Corridor.
3. Redevelopment of the Cooper Yard/Macalloy Site
  • The Cooper Yard/Macalloy Site would be redeveloped into an intermodal rail yard and warehousing facility.
  • This would be a major job generator for the area.
  • A sound wall would be constructed along Spruill Avenue.
  • The project would reduce the number of trucks on local streets and roads.
  • The Clemson Wind Turbine Cluster would be allowed to move forward, creating more jobs.
  • Would not require re-opening the Environmental Impact Statement for the new port terminal.

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