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Grant will pour $9.7 million into local railroad improvements

A $9.7 million federal grant to upgrade local railroad lines should go a long way toward upgrading services here.

“We’re ecstatic,” said R.J. Corman Railroad Vice President Bill Henderson Wednesday.

The grant will be used to upgrade rail lines here to permit trains to travel 25 mph. Currently they only can move at 10 mph.

The grant was announced Tuesday by South Carolina Republican Congressman Tom Rice, through whose district the rail line runs. Rep. David Rouzer, R-NC, had nothing on his web site Wednesday to indicate the grant had been awarded.

Entitled “Moving Carolinas Forward: A Rural Rail Project,” the grant funds are expected to improve rail transportation throughout the area.

Rice said, “With this new funding, freight can travel more quickly and efficiently through Horry County, allowing businesses in our district to be more competitive while reducing the price of goods for residents. The reliability of the newly-improved railroad will incentivize investment and therefore help diversify our economy with new industry.”

Henderson said that R.J. Corman bought the assets of the long-defunct Carolina Southern Railroad, the company didn’t know just how the local infrastructure was. “But this is a team effort,” said Henderson, “and we’re looking forward to getting our local lines up to snuff.”

The railroad vice president praised Columbus County Economic Developer Gary Lanier, County Manager Bill Clark, Commissioner Buddy Byrd and Sen. Bill Rabon for efforts to get the railroad running at current standards. The grant announced Tuesday will create additional capacity on Corman’s Carolina Lines by improving efficiency to better serve residents in and around the Seventh District. The railroad runs between Mullins, S.C., Chadbourn and Conway, S.C. The railroad had not been consistently operational in approximately five years prior to re-opening earlier this year after a change of ownership.

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