A deal to restore rail service in Horry County finally closed on Monday, according to a news release from the company purchasing the local short line.
R.J. Corman Railroad Co., the Kentucky-based buyer, hopes to begin moving freight on the tracks within six months. The line, formerly owned by the Carolina Southern Railroad, stretches from Mullins to Myrtle Beach and links to North Carolina.
The Carolina Southern, which is headquartered in Conway, shut down most of its local operations four years ago because some of its bridges didn’t meet federal regulations. The Carolina Southern’s owners lacked the resources to make the necessary improvements.
Corman officials have said the repairs and upgrades will cost several million dollars.
“We have a lot of work ahead of us to bring this line up to operating standards,” Corman CEO Craig King said in the news release. “But, like your leaders, we also have vision and determination. In addition, we have hard working and talented crews to make that happen. We are proud railroaders and we can’t wait to be part of North and South Carolina’s prosperous future.”
Corman operates 10 other short line railroads and employs more than 1,600 people in 23 states.
Local officials initially planned to close the deal by Aug. 1, but it took a few more weeks to iron out all the details of the $13.9 million transaction.
“We’re ecstatic to be on track to once again have rail service for this region,” Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus said in the release. “In addition to being more cost effective for our industries and producers, the railroad will reduce highway congestion, making travel easier and safer for residents and the millions of people who visit the Grand Strand every year.”
Carolina Southern owner Ken Pippin and a two-state rail committee representing Horry County and Columbus County, N.C., signed an agreement last year clearing the way for the sale. The contract allowed the counties to assign their collective rights and interests to a third party. The counties chose Corman to be the new owner/operator of the 80-mile line.
On Tuesday, Horry County leaders expect to take their first vote on an ordinance authorizing the county administrator to negotiate a lease agreement with Corman for 14 miles of track that the county owns.