A long-running battle between the state and City of North Charleston over rail access to port facilities at the site of the former Charleston Naval Base was settled earlier today, with North Charleston agreeing to end its efforts to block rail access from the north end of the facility in return for a number of concessions from the state to mitigate the impact of traffic.
A key concern was that the lack of northern rail access would leave the port dependent upon a single rail service provider, forcing the port to deal with rail rates based upon a monopoly and/or putting more of the port's shipping volume on trucks, creating additional traffic congestion. This concern was recognized by Mayor Keith Summey, who pointed out that "containers can exit our community by rail with less impact than exiting by truck".
In addition to Summey, Berkeley County State Senator Larry Grooms, who is the Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, has been the other key Lowcountry politico in these efforts, working diligently to get both sides to compromise. In talking with the Blogland, Grooms recognized the port had the right to open the northern rail access (which Summey acknowledged the port could do), but desired to see both sides reach an amicable agreement.
In addition to North Charleston ending its objections to the northern rail access to the port, other key points of the agreement include:
- The city will get more than 100 acres of state-owned land at the north end of the former base, including historic properties there,
- The city will receive $8 million in cash paid over four years,
- The state will take over $6.5 million in debt related to prior redevelopment efforts,
- The city and state will jointly conduct rail and traffic mitigation studies and efforts,
- The city and state will cooperate on economic development efforts in and around the port facility.
Expanding the North Charleston port facility has been a long struggle between the state to expand the capacity of it's Charleston port facilities which dates back to the 1990s. The next key challenges it will face will be efforts to get the Cooper River and Charleston Harbor deepened and address road improvements to handle increased truck traffic in and out of the port facilities around the Charleston area.