Port rail settlement vote possible tonight

Wade Spees/Staff A long and costly fight over the path freight trains will take to serve a new North Charleston container port could be settled with a City Council vote tonight. Buy this photo

A long and costly fight over the path freight trains will take to serve a new North Charleston container port could be settled with a City Council vote tonight.

The public meeting was not announced until late Monday, and officials won’t confirm details, but millions of taxpayer dollars and efforts to redevelop parts of the city and the former Navy base are at stake.

The state has insisted that the new port terminal under construction on the base must have rail access from the north end so as to serve both major railroads.

North Charleston fears the state’s plan would quash budding redevelopment efforts on the base and in the Park Circle area, where residents have protested the state’s plan.

The proposed settlement is expected to include some version of northern rail access, a multi-million-dollar payment to the city, and exchanges of property on the base, people familiar with the proposal have told The Post and Courier.

City Council would have to approve the deal, as would the state Budget and Control Board.

“I can’t talk about it until we get the information tomorrow,” said Councilman Bob King, whose district includes the Park Circle area.

Councilman Sam Hart, whose district would be traversed by more freight trains under any of the proposed scenarios, also said he wouldn’t comment until he’s briefed at the meeting. Other officials were similarly silent about the deal.

The agenda for the 5 p.m. meeting at City Hall says only: “Legal report and considerations of options.”

The state’s proposed $128 million rail yard would allow shipping containers from the planned state-run terminal just to the south to be loaded and unloaded from train cars. State officials have said the region’s two main railroads, CSX and Norfolk Southern, must have “dual access” to the property, to ensure that port customers have a choice and competitive prices.

To build the rail yard, the state Commerce Department and its Public Railways Division are seeking to acquire a large site owned by Clemson University on the former base.

Details of routes trains would use to access the proposed rail yard, under the settlement offer, have not yet been released.

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