On April 5, 2013, Hungryneck Straphangers learned that for over a year, CARTA has been negotiating to sell the planned location of the North Charleston Intermodal center and use some of those funds to purchase the old, existing Amtrak Station East of River’s Ave, off of E. Montague in North Charleston so that location could be converted into our region’s transportation hub. This new plan evidently has been delayed by the Federal Transit Administration for reasons unknown.
Dave Crossly of Hungryneck Straphangers has agreed to lead a study group on this problem with the assistance of Larry Carter Center. Meetings and events will be listed on our Straphanger’s Calendar. The group will conduct an independent rider’s oriented investigation of what has happened and prepare to make sure that rider input is included as the process moves forward. At this time, we have no conclusions to offer.
The reason cited for this is an alleged problem with construction of the necessary railroad siding at the original location. Years of planning and millions of dollars have already been spent on this location. Drainage, parking and landscaping are already constructed. You can see a photo album of the Intermodal Passenger Transportation Center site in N. Charleston.
You may read details in this article in the Charleston Post and Courier: CARTA Plan to Purchase Amtrak Station Derailed
Since I am not a railroad engineer, I can’t evaluate the seriousness of the problem alleged to exist at the original site. Most of you are familiar with the current Amtrak station. Last week we learned that there may be a serious crime problem in the area which preys on train passengers. We will be requesting information from the North Charleston Police Department to determine if those rumors are true. CARTA drivers also inform us that there are serious problems getting buses to and from a bus transit hub at that location due to difficulty of making a left hand turn across two lanes of traffic, up an incline and over two railroad tracks in a distance of 30 feet in a full sized bus. The grade crossing there is also often blocked by trains.
We have a photo album of the current 1950s era Amtrak Station in N. Charleston, which despite its horrific condition, has some wonderful staff who would love to help you go railroading. If you’ve always flown, you don’t know what you are missing.
It’s deeply disturbing that these discussions have gone on behind closed doors for more than a year while input from bus and train passengers and drivers was never requested. A transparent, detailed public exploration of what may or may not have happened here is in order. Our community is investing tens of thousands of dollars in a major, new transportation study now. Progress is impossible when mistakes like this are made and public confidence in planning is eroded.
We have contacted the Federal Transit Administration and expressed our concern. Amy Bernstein, informed us that our input should be directed towards our representatives in Congress.
Fortunately both locations are in James Clyburn’s District, where we have a sitting Congressman to work with. You can contact Congressman Clyburn at https://clyburn.house.gov/contact-me
However we have no current Congressman in SC District 1, which includes most of the Charleston area. We’re currently preparing to elect a new congressman in the 1st. District. We requested their thoughts on this issue last week. Elizabeth Colbert Busch responded on Friday and we’ll be revealing her answer a week from today at the April 15 meeting of the SC Progressive Network at the International Longshoreman’s Hall at 8 pm (the meeting starts at 7 and everyone’s welcome.
Former Governor Sanford did not responded, but we invite all riders to contact his campaign with your input on this issue. Information about how to contact both campaigns can be found at www.busec.org/vote
Next week we’ll begin the region’s first major modern Transit Riders Voter information campaign, distributing 15 thousand information cards in the Charleston area and Beaufort. We’re looking for volunteers who like to ride and talk to people. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in helping make sure things like the Intermodal Center planning problem don’t keep getting repeated while highway projects go on regardless of the cost or issues which may arise. It’s time for a uniform, higher standard of transportation planning to apply to all taxpayer funded mobility projects.