While rail-to-trail debate continues, bus routes proposed (Update: Never mind)

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Update February 25: The Island Packet has penned a column applauding the county for rejecting the federal dollars that would have expanded the bus routes throughout northern Beaufort County.

It's hard to argue that the expansion of costs would have made the newly expanded bus service unattractive to much of the target demographic, however it's sad to see that northern Beaufort County will still be stuck with ever increasingly jammed motorways for transportation.

As a bit of punditry, I find it curious that we're all so willing to see tax dollars go to fund roads, but skeptical of bus and train dollars.

Update February 21: Beaufort now intends to reject the $3.1 million in federal dollars after a more detailed look at the proposal suggested that the costs of operating the bus routes would be too high.

Updated September 14, 2010: The Island Packet has a report on what's been proposed with the $3.1 million in federal money, and it includes walking trails, sidewalks, and bus routes. 

Seems there is some disagreement on how the money should be spent, and whether it's being spread too thin. 

Give the Packet story a read here.

We also got a copy of a letter from Mayor Billy Keyserling to Beaufort County Council Chairman Weston Newton explaining that that it was his hope as well as Port Royal's that the $3.1 million grant could be modified to allow the money to be focused on just the rail-trail and sidewalks as pursuing the bus system with the same dollars would spread the dollars too thin.

You can read that letter here.

Reported September 9: Talk of turning the shuttered Port Royal Railroad into a sustainable rail-trail system is back on the table.

You might remember us pointing out a press release report last month that the Beaufort-Jasper Water & Sewer Authority, which purchased the rail line right of way from the S.C. State Ports Authority, has started to pull up the tracks. That along with Beaufort County receiving a $3.1 million grant from the Federal Transit Administration became the latest chapters in what's been a lengthy discussion regarding the future of the Port Royal Railroad's former lines.

Now the Island Packet has an editorial questioning the continued use of federal money on local projects and who will pay to sustain the effort once the federal money is gone.

You can read the full editorial here. 

The editorial spurred an email blast from a group calling itself Friends of the Beaufort Rail Trail with an opening line of: "If you read the editorial in today's Beaufort Gazette, you know Now is the time for Action."

Discussion and controversy regarding the Port Royal Railroad has been lengthy (remember the dinner train?), and we don't expect it to end here. So, we'll be interested to see what comes next.

Here's the rest of the e-mail from Friends of the Beaufort Rail Trail:

Please join the Friends of the Beaufort Rail Trail http://www.BeaufortRailTrail.com and write or call your County Council see below for reasons. Also please forward this email to anyone you think might be interested in the Rail Trail.

You probably have read that the Beaufort County Planning Department recently applied for  24.7 million grant for the following project:

The project was designed to accomplish the transformation of northern Beaufort County from a region dominated by a single mode of transportation to a region that offers transportation choices that are accessible to all residents. There are three components to this project:

  • 1) Providing a fixed route transit service that links a majority of northern Beaufort County residents to the region’s major employers, shopping areas, and services;
  • 2) Construction of the first phase (6.7 miles) of a multi-use trail on the right-of-way of the former 25 miles Port Royal to Yemassee Railroad; and
  • 3) Construction, repair, and reconfiguration of over 13 miles of sidewalks and multi-use pathways to promote safe network continuity by connecting the multi-use trail and transit routes to major employers, commercial districts, schools, and residential areas.

The County was awarded 3.1 million dollars for the project. The Friends of the Beaufort Rail Trail, as well as the City of Beaufort, and the Town of Port Royal would like to see the funds focused on the doable rather than the dream. The monies should be focused on the Beaufort County Rail Trail from Port Royal to the neighborhoods in the Burton area of the City. This would allow a family in Burton to safely walk or ride bicycles from their home to the YMCA in Port Royal. Likewise this path is currently heavily used by people walking to work from Port Royal to the 170 Corridor.

County Staff's position is that the monies should be split between the bus system, the trail, and sidewalks. This will spread the dollars so thinly and leave us with unfinished, unsatisfactory project. Please write and call your County Council Member to request that the funds are directed to the Beaufort County Rail Trail Linear Park.

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