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South Carolina High Speed Rail


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With the high costs of maintaining highways is it possible the best possible route to take is a high speed rail system? A recent trip to Japan for me opened my eyes up to the idea though I'm not quite sure there are enough people in South Carolina to support the system if it ever came about. The supposed population increases in the future suggests that if the system were to be constructed soon taking roughly 10 years for planning and the actual construction phase, it would come just in time for the massive population growth projected in the state along 26.

If it were to happen I think it should go something like this:

Bullet train which runs from Charleston, Orangeburg to/ through Columbia then on up to Rock Hill and ending in Charlotte for its final destination (that way the system is connected to a major financial center-- each stopover will be extremely coordinated and punctual--no stop lasting more than 4 minutes).

A second line will run from Myrtle Beach to Columbia, Greenville, then on over to Atlanta. The two systems will arrive at about the same time and any transfers will occur in centrally located Columbia.

If the systems were promoted with a brilliant marketing campaign, an easily used online booking system, and exellent facilities (with signs in boths English and German) in each of the cities it would promote huge growth across the board in a manner unseen by this state before. Tie the new system to a new economic policy carried out by the state and international investment and recognition would soon follow... if us South Carolinians want it-- or do we prefer copying other states and maintaining the status of South Carolina in the economic doldrums of the United States and world community?

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I think rail lines should flow in a similar pattern as our current main interstate highways.

In the Upstate, it would make most sense to have a line running along I-85 with stops at the main cities. It would also make sense for the line to be a portion of a larger connection between Atlanta and Charlotte, since that is the most direct route.

SC-only rail lines could include:

  1. A line connecting Greenville with Charleston via Columbia and Orangeburg. This line could also be extended to connect with Asheville, if desired in the future.

  2. A line connecting Rock Hill with Columbia

  3. A line connecting Myrtle Beach with Columbia via Florence. This line could also be extended to connect with Augusta, if desired in the future.

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Imagine what we could do if all the money that has been spent/earmarked for the Hunley was instead used for public transportation. Wouldn't that be a novel idea? I agree that we need high speed rail travel as our state is growing and gas is only becoming ore and more expensive, but we are going to need better mass transportation within our cities before a significant number of people are going to use intercity rail. If you take a train between cities, but then you don't have a way to get around in the city you're visiting, you are not likely to take the train to begin with.

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I would love to see this plan. I think they could at least first start with more conventional rail passenger service between the cities on these same routes mentioned above. There is a plan to run some sort of high speed rail between Charlotte and Atlanta and the route includes a stop in the upstate.

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I agree that our state is unique in its favorable geography for a solid hub and spoke system that could enhance our transportation network. I've always thought this type of thing would be good for our state, but it woudl have to be very fast, so that it makes driving LESS convenient.

In the event of an SC only HSR system, you would obviously include Spartanburg as a destination with a link directly to Columbia. Besides being a rail hub in the Upstate it allows for expansion to neighboring Asheville later on (FYI, some have proposed reviving the Spartanburg/Asheville passenger line).

Lets also not forget the current HSR line that is in the early stages of planning that will link Charlotte and Atlanta with stops in Spartanburg and Greenville. There is also one that will go through Columbia and Savannah in the more distant future.

In order for this to be successful it will need to connect to the cities just beyond our state line. So in addition to the ones above you would have the following.

From Columbia to:

Asheville (via Spartanburg)


HHI-Savannah (perhaps via Aiken)

The purpose here is to get as much access to these neighboring markets/population centers as possible.

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On the GA side, I'd love to see a Fall Line line (+ Myrtle Beach). Myrtle Beach, Cola, Augusta, Macon, Columbus. This line would be immensely useful in conjunction with an HSR connection to Atlanta through Macon. I bring up this specific line because air service is sooo miserable in Augusta, Macon, and Columbus. There's already brisk business busing passengers from Augusta to Columbia or Atlanta. There's probably a similar dynamic in Macon and Columbus, so there would already be a decent built-in ridership base. I really think the costs of an HSR line would be better than the costs needed to make these 3 GA airports competitive. The transfer point in Macon would also increase the viability of an often discussed Macon-Atlanta line. This would initially hurt these 3 GA airports (whereas Cola would immediately benefit), but I think in the long-run it would increase the possibility for national air routes, and it would likely help force down the ridiculous airfares that currently force us to travel to Columbia or Atlanta in the first place...

So, a cutout of my dream regional HSR network would include:

The Upstate/I-85 line: ..., Atlanta, Upstate, Charlotte, ...

The Fall Line line: ..., Myrtle Beach, Columbia, Augusta, Macon, Columbus, ...

The S.C./I-26 line: Charleston, Columbia, Upstate, Asheville, ...

The G.A./I-16 line: Atlanta, Macon, Savannah

The Coastal/I-95 line: ..., Jacksonville, Savannah/HHI, Charleston (I'm not sure if this would need to be continued to Myrtle Beach. It could head up I-26 to the Cola hub.)

This would cover most major routes, as well as tying into Florida's (currently dead) HSR plans. The only major direct connection (that I would consider relevant) that I left out is Cola-Charlotte. I don't really think a coastal line north of Charleston would benefit THAT many people, except maybe those tourists that want to sample different coastal resorts on the same trip...

[EDIT] Upon further thought, if I could only choose 1 line north out of Columbia, I'd probably build it to Charlotte, the Triad, and the Triangle, rather than the Upstate. Of course, since this is completely fantasy-land, I'd much rather have both ;)

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  • 5 weeks later...

IMO this sounds like a ploy to cut funding.

The Governor recognized that we need to take a serious look at all the systems to look for ways to better use funding, eliminate overlap and possibly merge systems that are running parallel with each other,

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Indeed. I started to say that Hell must have frozen over, then looking at it again it would seem there are no published goals for this study. So I suspect that we won't see anything like suggestions the state will start spending more on anything except more highways.

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  • 8 months later...

A feasibility study has been completed that supports High Speed Rail between Charlotte and Atlanta. The study assumes there would be nine stops between uptown Charlotte and downtown Atlanta:

  • Charlotte/Douglas Airport

  • Gastonia

  • Spartanburg

  • GSP Airport

  • Greenville

  • Clemson

  • Toccoa

  • Gainesville

  • Atlanta north

The recommendations from the study are as follows:


• Additional rail planning should probably focus on the 125 mph and 150 mph

diesel technologies as these have the best chance of financial viability within this

corridor, and are most compatible with the proposed rail enhancements north of


• The States in the corridor need to develop a political consensus concerning

innovative approaches to pay for capital costs and initial operating deficits. This

study indicates that there would not be sufficient operating surpluses to finance

capital cost bond payments, and a dedicated funding source, e.g., a sales tax

increment, might be considered.

• Even though the initial concept was to have a new independent rail operator, it

might be prudent to consider the plusses and minuses of partnering with Amtrak

to upgrade their existing corridor services. This approach could lead to synergies

that might lower some costs, e.g., for marketing, reservations, etc.

• Since networked systems would likely result in significant additional corridor

ridership and might make higher speed alternatives feasible, the States in the

SEHSR corridor should pursue closer ties with nearby States planning potential

rail expansions.

• Freight railroads are potential supporters of passenger rail expansion if new and

existing passenger rail service were shifted to separate (parallel) track easing

freight congestion.

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  • 2 months later...

The President just released the following on his plans to do for rail service what was done for highways when the interstates were built. At the end of the article there's a list of corridors and the cities within each corridor that he wants to connect. He intends to kick it into high gear.


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  • 4 months later...

I think that Charleston is a key destination too. As SCDOT studies the feasibility of rail across South Carolina, I think they will see that the state needs to install its own rail system within the state to complement the HSR. It should parallel I-26 between Charleston, Columbia, and Spartanburg, and I-385 to Greenville. Having a connection to Rock Hill and Charlotte would also be a priority, IMO.

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It would great if Florence or Myrtle Beach could potentially get in on the action also. I hate seeing the Pee Dee/Grand Strand get left out all the time. I know that region of the state lacks a midsized metro like Charleston, Columbia, or Greenville, but it's a region of the state that really needs infrastructure investment like this.

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