(In person and via Zoom) Martin Wheeler, Ralph Messera, Jim Frierson, Ed Locklin, Don Stewart, David Robinson, John Bobinyec, Joel McCurry, Ken Davis, Tom Darling and Phil Astwood
Phil Astwood distributed the January minutes via e-mail. Martin Wheeler sent a correction which was forwarded to the Board. The minutes were approved as corrected.
Ralph Messera distributed the report via e-mail. Cash Balance (12/31/21) - $1,713.29, Revenue from Dues - $935.00, Expenses - $5.41, Cash Balance (3/14/22) - $2,667.88. Paid Members – 35. David Robinson asked if we should have some sort of membership drive. He also suggested we have some sort of identification: Hats? Tee shirts? David will look into caps. David will also ask if we can get a membership list from RPA.
Consideration of Additional Board Members Needed:
Adam Rosen in NC responded to a request in the newsletter and asked for additional information about a Board member’s responsibilities. Martin responded. No one else has expressed an interest as yet.
RPA News on New Directors for the Carolinas and Spring Meeting:
Jim Frierson plans to attend the upcoming RPA meeting in Alexandria. He will vote on Don Yehle’s behalf and prepare a report on the meeting for the newsletter. Jim is not sure who, if anyone, from NC will attend.
Economic Feasibility Study of Charlotte-Columbia- Charleston Route:
Don Yehle had suggested that Jim contact Phil Streby while in the DC area to get information on how to use feasibility studies and how to fund them. At an earlier meeting Jim Tilley had suggested a Go-Fund-Me appeal. Martin asked if anyone was interested in investigating this as a means to raise money. A similar study is in progress in several areas including Montana and several other areas such as Kansas have commissioned studies concerning passenger rail in their areas. These are basically cost-benefit studies which are available at various costs depending on the amount information sought. Lacking volunteers, Martin agreed to look into Go-Fund-Me. He also pointed out that a study like this would be useful in our attempts to raise interest in a Florence to Myrtle Beach service.
Martin pointed out that we still want to pursue the use of the I-73 corridor and Jim said that he knew the project manager at SCDOT who is responsible for this project. He will write to her about our interest. It is also important to determine who now owns the former ACL right-of-way between Pee Dee (outside of Florence) and Mullins where the right-of-way meets the proposed I-73 route. According to Martin the route was abandoned in 1984 and the right of way is still in great condition. From Mullins it is only about a mile and a half to the line owned and operated by R.J. Corman that runs right to the Myrtle Beach station. Alan Paul has suggested that a way to initiate interest in this service would be to propose a bus from Florence to Myrtle Beach.
Due to the orders for new equipment, Martin said that some of the existing equipment should be used to operate trains leaving Columbia and Raleigh each morning and returning each evening. In effect this would just be an extension of one of the Piedmonts to Columbia. Don Stewart questioned that there is sufficient capacity to add these trains.
Update on SC Resolution Drive:
Phil said there is nothing new, but Martin said some of the people who did respond would probably be interested in helping with the Florence to Myrtle Beach proposal.
Western NC Rail Committee Inc Update:
Martin reported that the Committee plans to reexamine the route from Salisbury to Asheville as well as the option of going from Winston Salem to Asheville. He did not know if they would consider moving the Asheville station location which is prone to flooding. Studies like this are important now since the states must decide how they are going to use the Biden Infrastructure funding. Some money will go to existing programs, but it is not known how much. Georgia is planning to spend $8 million to revive the Nancy Hanks route between Atlanta and Savannah. We should let the Western NC organization know about our interest in an Asheville route. We need to contact them. Ralph will contact Julie White current head of NCDOT.
FRA Study of Corridor for Winston-Salem to Fayetteville:
Don Stewart said that FRA began studies six years ago to map out possible routes between various city pairs in this area. Don is interested in Fayetteville. The original State Rail Plan suggested two proposed routes Raleigh to Wilmington; one through Goldsboro and one through Fayetteville. Goldsboro seems to be the current choice since Fayetteville was left out of Amtrak’s recent proposals for that route. Don feels this is an error since Fayetteville is one the State’s major population centers and has a major military base. Don is also concerned about the historic 1910 station in Fayetteville which has been surrounded by the parking deck for the new baseball stadium. Perhaps the station should be moved or replaced since it no longer has any available parking.
NC On Track Update:
David has been focusing on CAPT issues and initiatives since that is the host organization for NCOT. He feels, however, we will benefit from contact with the Western NC Rail Committee. We need to show our support for what they are doing. David will send us a list of all members of the committee.
CAPT Newsletter and Website Update:
Martin and Don would like more participation from others in contributions to the newsletter. All fine on website.
Reports by Officers and Directors:
Jim – Columbia says that their first priority for the Covid money is to fix railroad crossing problems such as Assembly Street and Huger Street near the Fairgrounds. SCDOT says this will cost about $220 million and take about 5 years to complete. Jim has had no response to his letter to the Columbia mayor about passenger service. Reportedly they have selected a concept for Assembly Street, but it has not been released. Ed Locklin – Is the Crescent still operating 5 days out of 7? Ralph Messera – Full service will be restored on western trains next week. Eastern trains such as the Crescent still do not have sufficient crews for full operation. Tom Darling – A site has been selected and they are preparing plans for the Hillsborogh Station. Completion is anticipated in 2027 as part of a larger facility like the Kannapolis station which is a multi-use facility. There has been no progress on either the Harrisburg Station or Lexington Station. Martin – Retired from CATS 3/1.
Several mentioned the problems with getting Amtrak tickets due to website difficulties and long wait times on the phone.
Update on News in NC and SC Affecting Transit and Rail Passenger Service:
Martin – The Hendersonville to Brevard line has been abandoned and became a rail trail. All tracks are gone, but bridges are still intact. Former track area is nicely clear. Jim – David is setting up the meeting in Raleigh/Cary and might like to contact Dylan Hayward with the High Speed Rail Association. They can do a variety of presentations via Zoom. Martin – Read that the Commuter Study in the Raleigh area will send someone to speak to groups. He will send David information on this.
Martin – The technical aspects of this meeting have been more successful than past ones, but we need to find a way for all to able to hear clearly on Zoom. Perhaps a microphone that could be passed around? Maybe a wireless one if we can afford it.
Don – September meeting is in Fayetteville. There is a baseball game that day. Would we like to reserve a box to attend?
Planning for Future Meetings:
May 21 – Raleigh/Cary – David Robinson will arrange this.
July 16 – Myrtle Beach
September 17 – Fayetteville – Don Stewart will set it up.
November 19 (Annual Meeting) – Charlotte