Trains are rolling back into Horry County. Their return could also mean less traffic on Horry County roads.
“It’ll also be taking a lot of those trucks off the road,” said R.J. Corman Company CEO Ed Quinn. “When this short line shut down, a lot of these tractor trailers ended up back on these roads.”
Traffic is a consistent concern of Horry County locals, and it was clearly on the minds of local leaders who joined Quinn on Monday to celebrate a new grant to help repair aging railroads in Horry County.
Horry County Chairman Johnny Gardner and Conway Mayor Barbara Blain-Bellamy spoke at the meeting, as well as Rodney Barry, who spoke on behalf of U.S. Rep. Tom Rice. The event ended with a ceremonial groundbreaking of the new project, which hopes to offer a new route to ship goods into an area with few major highways.
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“A lot of people said it couldn’t be done, but the county worked very hard, and it’s not over yet, but we’re moving to getting it done,” Gardner said.
Blain-Bellamy said she hopes the railroad will make the area more attractive to industry looking for a community in which to operate. She also reiterated that anything that will get vehicles off Horry County roads is a positive development.
R.J. Corman purchased the rail line in 2015 and invested millions to get the lines back open, which it managed to do but use was limited due to needed repairs. In 2016, it was announced trains would be on their way back, but they were slow moving.
Prior to R.J. Corman’s purchase, trains had not run since 2011.
“Since the purchase we have invested about $3 million in the line,” Quinn said. “Although we have trains running now, it’s at 10 miles an hour speed.”
The most recent development since 2016 happened over the weekend when Horry County and the Kentucky-based R..J. Corman Company announced they received a $9.8 million federal TIGER grant to help repair bridges and railways to where they can allow trains to move faster. The grant, Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery, is given to projects that restore infrastructure to grow economic competitiveness and increase the quality of life for locals.
Nine bridges will be repaired and the 220-foot bridge that spans the Crab Tree Swamp in Conway will be completely rebuilt.
“You’ll see over 60 people here for the next several years,” Quinn said. “It’s a multi-year project.”
The project in total will cost $17.5 million to get the railroads back in working order. Once operational in the spring of 2022, the rails will allow trains to move upwards of 25 mph. The money was applied for through Horry County’s Department of Community Development and will go toward repairing railways back to an operable standard.
The rest of the funding will come from a partnership between R.J. Corman, the state of South Carolina, Horry County, Marion County and Columbus County, North Carolina. A news release for the event said reopening the railroad will be a benefit to the state and Pee Dee region.
“Everybody loves a train,” Gardner said.
Berry, who works for Rice on economic development, said this shows how important it is for Horry County and the rest of rural South Carolina to be proactive in getting funding.
“It is our time to be in the front of the line,” Berry said. “We hear about Greenville and Charleston all the time, but they aren’t given that.”