Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Otranto Road Regional Library, North Charleston, SC
March 16, 2019 Open: 1:00

Present: Martin Wheeler, Jim Frierson, Bob Bischoff, Donald Yehle & Phil Astwood

Secretary's Report: Phil Astwood read the minutes from the January meeting. They were accepted with two corrections.

Treasurer's Report: No report was available since Gene Kirkland was unable to attend the meeting.

Update on the Resolution Drive in South Carolina: Jim Frierson provided an update on the current membership of the SC House Education & Public Works Committee and the SC Senate Transportation Committee (the two SC legislative committees that deal with transportation). Jim also agreed to revise the cover letter that will be part of a packet sent to these committee members and the governor containing CAPT’s brochure on potential rail service in SC and a resolution that had been signed by 30 mayors and county council chairs agreeing with CAPT’s proposals. In discussing supporting actions that the legislature might take, placing unused rail lines in a “rail bank” was considered important, but the Board agreed that the most important action at the moment would be for the legislature to provide support for a Charlotte–Columbia-Charleston train. With this mailing to the legislators our supply of Greenville-Myrtle Beach schedules will be exhausted. Martin agreed to obtain an estimate to reprint it.

Update on CAPT Fostering Creation of an Association Similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail: In the future this project will be known as “North Carolina On Track” (NCOT), a name that has been approved by the Board. David Robinson is heading up the project. He sent a progress report covering his actions to date: 1. Established NCOT, 2. Set up a website (NCONTRACK.ORG), 3. Set up an email address, 4. Created an email contact list and made contact with potentially affected entities such as: NC cities, Chambers of Commerce, Business Bureaus, Legislators, Sports Teams, etc, 5. Created a newsletter, 6. Made a list of planned actions for the coming 2 months. The Western NC Rail Committee drafted their resolution in support of Amtrak Thruway Bus Service between Asheville and Salisbury. The Western NC Rail Committee was reconstituted and incorporated in 2017 after functioning for nearly 20 years as an unincorporated group. The new committee has 3 foci: 1. Increase and improve freight service, 2. Increase the number of excursion trains in the region, and 3. Reestablish passenger rail service beginning with bus service between Salisbury and Asheville. Martin read and the Board voted to approve a resolution indicating CAPT’s support of an Amtrak Thruway bus connection between Salisbury and Asheville.

Update on News in North Carolina and South Carolina Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service: Jim Frierson – In connection with the Clemson station, SCDOT said NS was realigning the track and expected to put it in use April 1. All of the bridge work should be complete in April/May, but there was no news on when the station would reopen.  When open this station will not be staffed as the Greenville station is not either now. The Board discussed the idea of creating a group of volunteer station attendants, as some other states have, to assist passengers at unstaffed stations at train times. Don Yehle – Plans to attend the Rail Passengers Association meeting in Washington in 2 weeks. Along with representatives from other states he will visit the offices of Senators and Congressmen to request increased support for passenger rail in the US. Bob Bischoff – There was a plan for light rail service between Durham and Chapel Hill. For several reasons neither Duke University nor NCRR has agreed to sign on to the plan which may doom it.

Update on CAPT Newsletter and Website Issues: No Reports

Reports by Officers and Directors:
Martin Wheeler - CATS has just finished an upgrade of its transportation plan including rail, light rail, street car and terminal plans. . One component is the approval to create an east/west rail line running from Union County east of Charlotte, through uptown and the airport over to Gaston County and ending near I-85. Work will continue on the street car line extending it to hwy 16 west of center city. Eventually there will be two other segments that will take it all the way to I-85 on the west side and out to Eastland on the east. They have ordered 6 cars from Siemens which should arrive in the next few months. They will be tested on the light rail line. Negotiations for commuter rail to north of Charlotte have not been going well. This will likely need to become an interim bus line in the toll lane on I-77. There is currently discussion about means to get light rail through the city, perhaps by building a tunnel. There is also discussion about extending the Blue Line south to Pineville. Ridership on the Blue Line to the north has been less than predicted, but is continuing to rise. Charlotte Gateway station is now in the first 3-year phase of the project which involves building bridges, tracks and infrastructure north and south of the new station. At the end of this phase all will be done except the station building.

Planning for Future Meetings:

  • May 18 – Raleigh
  • July 20 - Columbia
  • September 21 – Charlotte
  • November 16 - Landrum (Perhaps Fayetteville)
Adjourn - 3:30