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Senate committee OKs SC ports borrowing $550M for railroads

February 2, 2021 GMT

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A group of South Carolina senators sent a proposal to borrow $550 million to expand rail lines at the Port of Charleston to the Senate floor Tuesday.

The expansion project approved by the Senate Finance Committee would allow the port to more easily move cargo containers in and out on rail lines and could take up to 500,000 trucks off the state roads, South Carolina Ports President and CEO Jim Newsome said.

It also would allow workers to move containers more easily around the port, he said.

Supporters of the bond issue said interest rates are at all-time lows and the Charleston port is the only one along the Atlantic Ocean to not have easy rail access.

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There likely will be debate on the Senate floor over whether this is the right thing to borrow money for. South Carolina last issued bonds for this much money in 1999, when they borrowed $750 million to improve school buildings.

Crews have one more year left in $600 million deepening project on Charleston Harbor that was split between the state and federal government.

“This takes care of us for a while,” Newsome said of the rail expansion project.