Updated: Sep 7, 2022
South Carolina desperately needs an east to west route… like bad.
Despite having four different passenger rail services going through the state (really good for the Southeast), there is no direct connection between the three largest metros. In order to get from Charleston to Columbia in the center of the state. One would have to take either Amtrak’s Palmetto/ Silver Meteor to Rocky Mount NC (very close to the Virginia state line) switch to Amtrak’s Silver Star and get to Columbia around 2 A.M. Overall this is about an 18 hour trip. Or you could drive two hours up Interstate 26. To get to Greenville it takes three trains.
Greenville, Columbia and Charleston are some of the fastest growing metros in the Southeast. Their proximity to each other: Greenville to Columbia 104 miles, Columbia to Charleston 116 miles, and growing populations, make each pairing an ideal candidate for modern rail. From end to end, going 125mph, the entire trip would take less than two hours to complete. Not bad for connecting an entire state. This route would also allow Charlotte and Atlanta to have an additional connection to the coast, potentially pumping huge amounts or economic stimulus into the region.
For this route to exist it would have to be built in a couple of ways. One is to upgrade/ use existing freight railways. This option is less direct but is already built out and has different options for track owners, potentially making the relationship between the freight and passenger operators easier. Another is to build new tracks, possibly down the I-26 right of way. This option has the potential to be more direct, but it will take longer to build and be much more expensive.
Unfortunately there are no plans to create such a route from the SC government, Amtrak or any other private provider to connect these three cities directly. Hopefully we can change that.