Carolinas Association for Passenger Trains
Board Meeting
Spartanburg County Westside Branch Library, Spartanburg, SC
May 21, 2016Open: 12:40 PM

Present - Martin Wheeler, Gene Kirkland, Ralph Messsera, Jim Frierson, John Bobinyec, Rick Wyatt (SCDOT), Frank Ezell (SCRPC) and Phil Astwood
Guest Speaker - (Frank Ezell - South Carolina Rail Passenger Consortium) - After I established the Railroad Museum in Spartanburg, I got many questions about future rail service in SC. I brought together a group to work on a plan for day time passenger service in the upstate and to Charleston via Columbia. This was the origin of the SC Rail Passenger Consortium and the SC Rail Plan. Our contact at Amtrak was Diana Cabot Miller. We are proposing two trains each way each day from Greenville via Columbia to Charleston and Charleston via Columbia to Greenville. Overall, people favor this idea. In a survey 95% were in favor, and young people were particularly supportive. I was contacted by Amy Burns at the 'Greenville News' who wrote a very good article about our plan. She is anxious to help. The plan addresses challenges as well. It considers cost, reengineering, signals, purchase or lease of rolling stock, stations, staffing, and federal permits. There are many "dark territories" in the plan's area, but speed may not be the selling point; safety and convenience are. Some stations can be remodeled, some will need to be built. The estimated cost to do all of this is $100 million. (Martin) - NS is planning to use PTC in the Charlotte to Columbia area. (Rick) - Amtrak estimated the cost of initiating Charlotte to Columbia passenger service at $1 million per mile. (Frank) - The most encouraging news at the moment is that the consultants working with the FRA on the Southeastern Rail Plan have received a copy of our SC Plan. Hopefully our plan will be included with the SE Rail Plan. We will need to meet if the plan is accepted. Working together will be the key to success.

Update on resolution drive in South Carolina - (Phil) - Jim Frierson has completed address lists for mayors of towns/cities within 10 miles of the routes proposed in the brochure inserts, county council chairs for all 46 counties, clerks to all 46 county councils and members of the SC House and Senate Transportation Committees. Phil now will send a packet to each containing our brochure on possible SC passenger rail service, our inserts with proposed routes, a copy of our resolution and a cover letter from Martin and Jim.

Secretary's Report - (Jim) - In Phil's absence, Jim recorded minutes at the March meeting. He read those minutes which were accepted with two corrections.

Treasurerís Report - (Gene) - The beginning balance on March 19 was $2,680.98; expenses for printing, postage and stationary were $385.16; leaving a closing balance on May 20 of $2,295.82. Gene will continue to send out two renewals per day.

Update on CAPT fostering creation of an association similar to Virginians for High Speed Rail - (Martin) - David Robinson appears to be taking the lead on this project. He is trying to develop a 'target' group. Send any comments or suggestions to him.

Update on CAPT newsletter and website - Website - John's goal was to get this off his server, but it is probably too expensive to put a great deal on a commercial server. He is still working on a set up with PayPal that allow dues to be paid on line. Newsletter - Some news is sent out with the meeting notice. Gene is going to write about what is happening along the Charlotte to Raleigh route. Send anything you would like in the newsletter to Ed or Martin. Ed will get it out.

Update on news in North Carolina and South Carolina affecting transit and rail passenger service - North Carolina (Gene)- 'Push pull' on the Piedmonts started on May 9. The trains look good with an engine at each end. The seats are arranged with 1/2 facing each way. Construction at the new Raleigh station is well underway. The former building is just a frame, the walls and ceiling are gone. The project needs to be complete by September 2017 which is the deadline for funding. (John) - The track west of Cary is realigned but they are still not using the main. (Martin) - Piedmont ridership is up 8%. but the Carolinian is down 13% this February vs 2015. South Carolina - (Jim) - Attended the CARTA Board meeting this week. Jeff Burns, the planner for CARTA, said progress is being made on the intermodal station. The price of the property has been approved. Amtrak will retain possession of the loading platform thus saving on insurance. Ground breaking is scheduled for October 2016. Completion is expected in November of 2017. The existing station building will become part of the new structure. (Martin) - John Wagner sent information about the current situation at Clemson where they will not be permitted to build a temporary platform at the station. Instead they will offer connecting bus service to Greenville. Most bridges are complete on the CATS Blue Line extension and the North yard is nearly done thus providing a greater storage area.

Amtrak Update - (Martin) A Maine rail group is trying to return passenger service to the central part of the state. The Florida 'Bright Line' is progressing with initial service expected in 2017. The engines and cars are to be built by Siemens. (Gene) - Clinton and Trump both seem to support rail. NS seems willing to work with passenger trains.

Planning for future meetings - (Martin) The next meeting will be in Charlotte on July 9. Meet at the station at about 10:00, tour local construction, ride on the street car and have lunch at Queen City Q. After the meeting we will have a longer tour of Blue Line construction.

Note: Plans now call for lunch at Queen City Q at 11:30, Meeting at 1:00, Tours at 3:00.

Adjourn: 3:20 PM