Deal near on Myrtle Beach area railroad

The owners of Carolina Southern Railroad and members of a two-state rail committee are closer to a settlement than they have ever been, said Doug Wendel, co-chairman of the committee.

The settlement would amount to an agreement by both sides to move the issue directly to the U.S. Surface Transportation Board, which would set a price at which the railroad is to be sold.

It could short circuit the process by more than a year and hasten the time when the railroad might once again be operating.

Members of the committee from Horry, Marion and Dillon counties have petitioned the STB to force a sale of the railroad that hasn’t operated in more than three years. As a result, some of the railroad’s customers in Horry County have had to find alternate ways to get raw materials and ship out product, and that has added hundreds of thousands of dollars to their cost of doing business.

Rail service, which was limited to hauling freight, stopped in 2012 after federal rail inspectors discovered deficiencies on some bridges along the nearly 100-mile line.

Ken Pippin, Carolina Southern owner, has said the railroad doesn’t have the money to cover the multi-million dollar cost of the repairs.

Pippin could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Previously, he has said he was willing to sell if someone offered him a fair price. He determined what that price was, but never disclosed it publicly.

If a settlement is reached, the STB will decide the sale price.

Wendel said that all members of the two-state committee have signed the settlement agreement.

He is optimistic that Pippin, too, will sign once the settlement document contains the resolutions of the remaining issues.