South Carolina railroad to unveil new line to Volvo’s Berkeley County factory

Palmetto Railways’ proposed rail line would connect Camp Hall Industrial Campus in Berkeley County, home to the Volvo Cars manufacturing plant, with CSX Corp. tracks near Santee Cooper’s Cross Generating Station. File/Staff

South Carolina’s state-owned railroad plans to build a 10-mile rail line to the site of the Volvo factory, one of a handful of projects meant to ready the region for the Swedish automaker and other companies that might set up shop near the plant.

Palmetto Railways, a short-line carrier run by the state Commerce Department, says it hopes to have the new line running to Camp Hall Commerce Park in 2019, a year after Volvo is expected to open its first U.S. manufacturing facility along U.S. Interstate 26 in Berkeley County.

The plans are still in the early stages, and state officials will begin pitching the project Tuesday night with a public meeting in Cross, near the north end of the proposed line. Palmetto Railways also launched a website last week to lay out broad outlines of the project, which it is calling Camp Hall Rail.

Palmetto Railways will build, own and operate the rail line. The cost has not been determined, nor has what the agency called “a preferred route” for the tracks.

The effort is among a handful of projects state and county officials used to lure the Swedish automaker to the Lowcountry. Nearby highways will be widened, and a new exit will be added to Interstate 26 for the Camp Hall property, near Ridgeville.

The state says it hopes the rail line also will help drum up more interest in manufacturing development in the industrial park, which covers a 6,800-acre swatch of the western part of the county. Volvo’s $500 million plant is expected to use more than a third of that land. The rail line also could ease traffic on I-26 once cars start rolling out of the factory to the tune of 100,000 a year, according to Palmetto Railways’ website.

The new line is expected to run between the industrial park and Santee Cooper’s power plant in Cross along Lake Moultrie, roughly 10 miles away. Specifics on the project are limited, and the route isn’t expected to be drawn up until later this year. From there, it will need to clear environmental review and obtain permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Palmetto Railways didn’t respond to questions about its plans Monday. It said on its website that it is “committed to collaborating with Berkeley County, state and federal officials and local residents to ensure that the community and surrounding areas are included in the rail line development.”