A new passenger train and bus station will be a reality for the area thanks to a $6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey said Monday.
The new station will be on West Montague Avenue not far from North Charleston Coliseum. It will link Amtrak passenger trains, Greyhound/Southeastern Stages and Charleston Area Regional Transportation Authority buses, taxis, limousines and maybe regional high-speed rail.
The Intermodal Transportation Center will look much like the old Union Train Station in Charleston, which burned in 1947. It will provide a better first-impression than the decaying Amtrak station, officials said.
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham and U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn played key roles in securing the $6 million, which will be added to $1 million already in the bank and an expected $475,000 coming down the pike, said Howard Chapman, CARTA executive director.
"This is a big breakthrough," Chapman said.
Summey, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley and Charleston County Council Chairman Teddie Pryor were among those present for a news conference to announce the $6 million grant award.
Summey said that about 85 percent of the funds needed to build the new transportation center had been secured. Private investors are expected to provide the remaining 15 percent, he said.
"We'll come up with the local match somehow. This is a project that is desperately needed," Summey said. The new station could become a reality in as little as two years, he said.
The 36-acre palm-tree-lined grounds of the transportation center, which includes a curved pond with a fountain, abuts Amtrak rail lines and Interstate 526. CARTA offices, currently in downtown Charleston on John Street, would move to the new center. A restaurant also is planned. CARTA owns the site, officials said.
The center is in its final design stage. Some $10 million has been spent to buy the land, prepare it for construction, provide electrical and sewer capacity and produce designs. The parking lot can be used now and is being maintained by the city of North Charleston.
In June, Graham met with Chapman and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood about the proposed facility. The deteriorated condition of the Amtrak station was a key factor in securing the $6 million grant, Chapman said, noting that LaHood serves on the Amtrak board.
"We are tremendously excited about this grant," said Kurt Taylor, chairman of the CARTA Intermodal Committee.
"This is a great day for the citizens of Charleston County," Pryor said. It is an example of what happens when governments work together, he said.
"It's absolutely necessary for us to do this," said County Councilman Vic Rawl.
The state Department of Transportation and the city of Charleston are seeking $500,000 for a study that could be a first step toward a federally designated high-speed rail corridor in eastern South Carolina. A decision from the Federal Railroad Administration is expected in a few months. It eventually could mean that a high-speed rail is part of the new transportation center.
Amtrak ticket and baggage agents Ryan Flowers (right) and Karen Caplan clean up the platform at the beginning of their shift Monday afternoon. The operation will become part of the Intermodal Transportation Center on West Montague Avenue, linking Amtrak t×