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Army Corps reviews Palmetto Railways’ new plans

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Staff Report
Published Sept. 29, 2015

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Charleston District, is reviewing a new proposal from Palmetto Railways to build two connections to the existing rail network as part of its planned container facility in North Charleston.

Palmetto Railways, an arm of the state Commerce Department, has been planning to build the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility at the former Navy base in North Charleston for several years to serve the Port of Charleston.

CLICK TO ENLARGE: Proposed project and updates
  1. Northern Rail Connection.
  2. Cosgrove-McMillan Overpass.
  3. Intermodal Container Transfer Facility.
  4. Hobson-Bainbridge Realignment and Viaduct Overpass Removal.
  5. Private Drayage Road Elements.
  6. Southern Rail Connection.

In a filing (.pdf) submitted to the Charleston District on Sept. 8, Palmetto Railways proposed replacing its original route along Spruill Avenue to Bexley Avenue with two other routes:

  • A northern connection would be built through the Charleston Naval Hospital Historic District and a new railroad bridge would be built across Noisette Creek to provide direct access to the rail yard for Norfolk Southern.
  • A southern connection would be built extending one mile south of the rail yard and connecting to an out-of-service CSX right of way near the intersection of Meeting and Milford streets.

Additional changes include:

  • Cosgrove Avenue would be moved and made into an overpass from the area of Spruill Avenue, connecting to what is now McMillan Avenue near Noisette Boulevard. This overpass would separate rail traffic from vehicle traffic.
  • The Viaduct Road overpass would be removed and Hobson and Bainbridge avenues would be moved with intersection improvements. These changes would allow trucks to move from the container facility to Interstate 26 via the future Port Access Road.
  • An approximately one-mile-long private drayage road would be constructed from the Intermodal Container Transfer Facility to the Navy Base Terminal, which would be used by trucks carrying shipping containers.
The 100-acre container yard would provide rail and road connections to the new Navy Base Terminal that is currently under construction. The S.C. State Ports Authority expects phase one of that container terminal to open by 2020.

The Army Corps held an initial meeting about Palmetto Railways’ project in November 2013 and began gathering information about the site in 2014. The project has since changed to include a new southern rail connection and realignment of the northern rail connection.

“The purpose of the proposed project is, in brief, to provide a state-of-the-art intermodal hub to serve the Port of Charleston with equal access to the two Class I rail carriers serving the area ... to meet future demand, as the existing individual CSX and NS intermodal rail yards are reaching capacity,” Palmetto Railways President and CEO Jeff McWhorter said in a letter to the corps.

The ports authority board adopted a resolution during its September meeting to transfer about 29 acres of property at the former Navy base to Palmetto Railways. The property was originally included as part of a larger parcel leased by the port in 1999 for the development of the Navy Base Terminal.

The Charleston District is preparing an Environmental Impact Statement to assess the project’s potential social, economic and environmental impacts on the surrounding area.

“The corps believes these changes to the proposed project are substantial because they would result in impacts to roadways, industrial areas and neighborhoods that were not considered during the preparation of the EIS,” the corps said in a statement.

McWhorter said in the letter that the changes to the Spruill Avenue route would eliminate potential impacts to Chicora-Cherokee neighborhoods and the additional southern line would give CSX direct access to the container yard.

The Charleston District has set a public meeting to get feedback for further evaluation. The meeting will be Oct. 27 at Military Magnet Academy at 2950 Carner Ave. in North Charleston. An open house will be from 5:30 to 7 p.m. and the meeting and presentation will be from 7 to 9 p.m. The public comment period ends Nov. 27.

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