After spending $10 million to purchase and prepare a site and to design a new intermodal transportation center, CARTA has reported a significant roadblock that some say will mean the project’s demise.
Too much money, time and effort have been spent to give up on the project. CARTA’s board should see to it that the plan proceeds at the selected site on West Montague Avenue near Dorchester Road.
Reports are that the site is being eyed by a major corporation. It is on the rail line, just off I-26 and in a part of North Charleston that is flourishing.
Of course, the site is good. That’s why North Charleston and CARTA chose it for the transit hub, and that’s where the hub should be built. CARTA’s board should remember that its responsibility is to put the center on the best possible site.
If there were an insurmountable problem, surely transit planners and engineers who have worked on the project for years would have discovered it long ago.
And surely CSX, which has been a supportive partner all along, would be willing to work with CARTA to resolve concerns about Amtrak’s use of existing rail.
The possibility of scrubbing the project is a frustrating blow in a frustratingly long — 15 years — planning process.
North Charleston in the mid-’90s came up with the idea for a hub for Amtrak, Greyhound, taxis, limousines and, perhaps one day, high-speed rail. The city applied for funding, and CARTA was the agency designated to receive and manage those public funds.
The Amtrak station then, and now, is an embarrassing entrance to an area that is winning national and international hospitality accolades right and left. It is dingy, dated and difficult to find.
You would think that the sorry state of the station should have propelled plans for its replacement. But the process, involving CARTA, North Charleston, Amtrak and CSX, was complex. And there were delays as CARTA promoted two failed referendums before winning the public’s support on the third try.
CARTA’s board should recognize that failing to complete this long-promised, much-needed project could erode the confidence the public has begun to have in CARTA.
Elliott Summey, a member of Charleston County Council and chairman of CARTA’s board, says the issue can be resolved, but he estimates that the project is $6 million short. CARTA has $7.4 million in hand, as well as the 36-acre parcel in question. Public/private partnerships involving the new building were to make up much of the difference.
Imagine how much more difficult it will be to find funding — public or private — for an intermodal transportation center if this one is scrapped and CARTA has to start over.
If the Charleston area is to advance the use of passenger rail, there must be an alternative to the station now used by Amtrak. And if you’re building a new train station, it makes good sense to use that opportunity to accommodate mass transit, taxis and limousine services, as well.
The center is key to CARTA’s plans for a transit system that provides comfort and convenience — both necessary if it is to increase its ridership and, in doing so, reduce car traffic along the region’s congested roadways.
Local leaders should have public transportation as a priority. CARTA and its partners should waste no time working out problems with the present site on West Montague.
Too much time and money has already been spent to do otherwise.
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