Thursday, April 16, 2009

High-Speed Rail Vision Misses Charleston

Posted by Greg Hambrick on Thu, Apr 16, 2009 at 2:24 PM

9ee0/1239906079-_ben_4414_resized.jpgPresident Barack Obama unveiled plans for a $13 billion investment in a high-speed passenger train system on Thursday, but the proposed route does not make a stop in Charleston.

The proposal would pull $8 billion from the federal stimulus for shovel-ready projects, with an additional $1 billion a year for the next five years to help plan and coordinate other portions of the rail plan.

Divided into 10 parts, the proposed routes in the Southeast hit major cities like Raleigh, Charlotte, Atlanta, Columbia, Greenville, and Savannah, but does not make a stop in Charleston. Charleston is instead grouped with "other passenger rail routes."

Corridor routes in the Southeast will be coordinated by officials in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Virginia, says Warren Flatau with the Federal Railroad Administration. The current proposal is not finalized and could be modified to include Charleston if a Lowcountry route is included in the state's rail plan, he says.

8231/1239906193-railmap_resized.jpgIt’s odd that the plan would overlook Charleston considering the local municipalities have made a commitment to develop a regional passenger rail system. Charleston Mayor Joe Riley has been advocating for a commuter train between Summerville and the peninsula as the first step for broader rail travel in the Lowcountry.

“That means an automobile isn’t on the highway,” he said in September to the city’s Green Committee.

Riley said at the time that much of the infrastructure was already in place, but more work needed to be done to secure partnerships with railroad companies and other municipalities.

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