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Could commuter rail be coming to South Carolina?

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Would you ride a commuter train between Columbia and Charlotte to avoid the drive on I-77?

On Tuesday, the Central Midlands Council of Governments (CMCOG) and city of Columbia, S.C., officials will meet with North Carolina Department of Transportation/Rail Division and Amtrak representatives in Raleigh, N.C., to discuss a proposed commuter-rail line between Columbia and Charlotte, N.C.

Unfortunately in today's tight-budget atmosphere, I find it hard to believe that South Carolina will be able to finance the service due to the high-costs involved in the potential project. The Federal Government is facing possible reductions in public transportation spending.

The Columbia-Charlotte Interurban Rail Project would serve as a potential connection to the Raleigh-Atlanta High Speed Rail Corridor to link surrounding areas with a future high-speed rail route reaching Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Va.; Raleigh; Charlotte; Greenville, S.C.; and Atlanta.

The Columbia representatives took a BUS to Charlotte to connect with the NC DOT funded train operated by Amtrak there for the rest of the trip.

The 113-mile commuter-rail line would be established on existing Norfolk Southern freight-rail tracks, which would require improvements to track, signals, sidings and grade crossings to allow for higher-speed passenger service.

The Charlotte to Raleigh corridor in North Carolina has a much higher population density than the Columbia to Charlotte region the extension would pass through and Nortfh Carolina has a record of funding state public transportation.

The service WOULD have the additional benefit of allowing passengers from Columbia to connect in Charlotte with Amtrak services to Atlanta and New Orleans. In addition, if a stop was added at or near the Charlotte/Douglas airport "intermodal" connections could be made to help avoid the usually high ticket prices at Columbia Metro Airport.

Find out more about Amtrak's 40th Birthday and passenger rail at http://amtrak40.com

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