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Philly Amtrak Fan

Largest Metros Without Amtrak Service (How to Serve Them?)

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I am looking for brainstorming/suggestions on how to introduce/re-introduce Amtrak to the largest metro areas that do not have service.

 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_cities_in_U.S._lacking_Amtrak_service#cite_note-4

 

Amtrak-less markets with 500,000 or more people:

 

Phoenix:

Is a return to the old route practical? How about a separate train from LAX to Phoenix?

 

Las Vegas:

I'm guessing Nevada is full speed ahead for Xpress West so little chance for state funding here. I guess Amtrak could do through cars between SLC and LAX connecting to the CZ but that would probably be really expensive and lose way too much money.

 

Columbus:

A 3-C will never happen with Kasich as governor. I would hope any sane governor would start it. AAO proposed CHI-Ft. Wayne/Columbus/PGH. If they could extend it to PHL/NYP it would IMHO be a great new route.

 

Nashville:

You could probably go in several directions:

a) to IND/CHI via Louisville (which would take care of Louisville as well),

b) to ATL,

c) to Va/WAS via Knoxville? (WoodyInNYC suggested it: http://discuss.amtraktrains.com/index.php?/topic/66173-fiscally-constrained-system-vision/?p=632976, http://clevelandbanner.com/stories/amtrak-linethrough-areagets-new-look,13181

d) to Memphis?

Maybe you can have a CHI-ATL train through Nashville. But I'm not aware of any practical routes.

 

Louisville:

You could go to IND/CHI or to CIN. Perhaps you can combine with Nashville. I would say the two cities and states (KY/TN) should work together to get service. We are talking about almost 3 million new potential Amtrak customers between the two markets. You would think KY and TN would want better service than they have now but you would also think OH would too.

 

Tulsa:
No idea. Extend the Heartland Flyer?

 

Knoxville:

See links in the Nashville section.

 

Allentown:
Don't think anything to PHL is likely but NYP might be.

 

Baton Rouge:

They are studying the link to NOL.

 

McAllen, TX:

Honestly I had never heard of it until today. The only possibilities I could guess would be a state supported to HOU and/or SAS.

 

Dayton, OH:

Would be part of any 3-C route when there is a governor who would support it.

 

Akron, OH:

Old Broadway route. Not even AAO is proposing any service there.

 

Colorado Springs:
No idea.

 

Boise:

Bringing back the Pioneer?

 

Wichita:

Extending the Heartland Flyer to KCY or Newton which would allow a connection to the SWC.

http://www.bizjournals.com/wichita/blog/2013/05/wichitas-amtrak-supporters-plan.html

 

Madison:

Probably would have to be a state supported to either CHI or Milwaukee. Good luck with Walker in charge.

 

Ogden:

There is Front Runner to SLC. Any Ogden service would probably would be a part of a Pioneer.

 

Des Moines:

The wiki says it's part of a CHI to Omaha route but the link appears dead.

 

Augusta, GA:
No idea.

 

Scranton/Wilkes Barre, PA:

NJT is working on the Lackawanna Cutoff.

 

Youngstown, OH:

AAO proposals between CLE and PGH.

 

Chattanooga, TN:

See links in the Nashville section.

 

Tri-Cities, TN:

See links in the Nashville section.

 

 

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Thanks for the Wikipedia link, Philly Amtrak Fan!

 

I was thinking about this just the other day. Amtrak can't serve every town in America, but in a perfect world they could hit the "sweet spot" cities: those metro areas with at least 100-200k people and poor commercial flight options. It is quite frustrating when an existing route could serve a nearby metro (and boost ridership), but doesn't due to host RR issues or other obstacles.

 

My desire would include the following modifications to western routes:

 

Southwest Chief reroute to Pueblo

Sunset Limited service to both Phoenix and Las Cruces

California Zephyr service to Des Moines instead of southern IA

Coast Starlight serving Medford and Roseburg instead of Klamath Falls

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Thanks for the Wikipedia link, Philly Amtrak Fan!

 

I was thinking about this just the other day. Amtrak can't serve every town in America, but in a perfect world they could hit the "sweet spot" cities: those metro areas with at least 100-200k people and poor commercial flight options. It is quite frustrating when an existing route could serve a nearby metro (and boost ridership), but doesn't due to host RR issues or other obstacles.

 

My desire would include the following modifications to western routes:

 

Southwest Chief reroute to Pueblo

Sunset Limited service to both Phoenix and Las Cruces

California Zephyr service to Des Moines instead of southern IA

Coast Starlight serving Medford and Roseburg instead of Klamath Falls

 

What route(s) would you use to reroute the SL? Who owns it/them? Is there any talk about rerouting via Phoenix? How come it's been almost 20 years since the reroute away from Phoenix?

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Phoenix:

The problem is that the route to/from the west is broken (not to/from the east), so that needs to be restored in order to offer either Los Angeles-Phoenix service or to reroute the Sunset Limited. Arizona has been studying Phoenix-Tucson service (but I seem to recall that the projected costs were far higher than what I would guess would garner much political support, but perhaps I'm mistaken there). If costs for PHX-TUS are more reasonable, I'd guess that would be more likely than (or would occur before) PHX-LAX.

 

Tulsa:

Iowa Pacific has been planning some sort of Oklahoma City-Tulsa service - I want to say that initially it is/was projected to run from suburban OKC to suburban Tulsa. At times, this has gone by the name "Eastern Flyer" (as a counterpart to the "Northern Flyer" proposal which extends the Heartland Flyer north from OKC through Wichita to Newton).

 

Columbus, Louisville, Dayton, Madison, Des Moines, Youngstown:

Those would all be served by various Midwest regional/corridor routes if/when the states in question get on board, so to speak.

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Phoenix: If Arizona or Phoenix were willing to spend the money, the train could be restored to Phoenix in a few months. Nobody's built on top of the rail line or anything.

Las Vegas: Xpress West.

Columbus: 3C obviously; this is really dependent on Ohio; hopefully Kasich will leave soon.

Nashville: No idea; every direction is problematic. Cooperating with Kentucky would make sense.

Louisville: Restoring the Kentucky Cardinal route (Indianapolis-Louisville) is "just" a matter of trackwork and it's operated by a shortline who would probably be willing to sell. They've been talking about a Louisville-Lexington line for ages and it could be operated as an extension. There's space at Indianapolis station. Just requires Kentucky and/or Indiana and/or the localities to have the desire and the money.

Tulsa: They've been angling for a Heartland Flyer extension or a standalone Tulsa-OKC train -- with no support from the legislature.

Knoxville: Highly speculative proposals for extension from Bristol, even more speculative ideas for a line from Nashville or Lexington.

McAllen generally gets ignored by the media in the rest of the country because it's supermajority Hispanic (77%). Same thing happens to Brownsville.

Allentown: Running to New York is "just" a matter of trackwork and buying right-of-way from NS. Running to Philadelphia is "just" a matter of getting SEPTA to revoke the trail permit and put the line back in. Strictly political obstacles, no technical obstacles.

Baton Rouge: vaguely wants a line to New Orleans, but the state isn't putting money behind it.

McAllen, TX:

 

Honestly I had never heard of it until today.

McAllen is ignored by the national media due to what I can only call bigotry. The metro area is 77% Hispanic, and as a result the English-language media practically never talks about it. Brownsville has the same problem.

For the same reason of bigotry, Texas state government will *actively prevent* any improvements to rail service (or any other sort of service) in McAllen. Until the demographics overwhelm them. Look at the projections for when Texas will become majority Hispanic; that's when McAllen service will start being seriously discussed. Unfortunately it still seems like it'll take a while.

 

Dayton OH: 3C route.

Akron OH: Best proposal is an upgrade and extension to the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic route, direct from Cleveland Tower City to Akron Northside Station.

Colorado Springs: They're fanatical anti-government-services nutters there, but the proposal is part of the Front Range line: Pueblo-Colorado Springs-Denver.

Boise: Best chance is the Pioneer and I doubt it's worth it.

Wichita: Yes, extending the Heartland Flyer to KCY or Newton which would allow a connection to the SWC.

Madison: Wants a train via Milwaukee to Chicago. Had full funding for it, until the criminal Scott Walker got elected using illegal campaign contributions.

Ogden: Served by FrontRunner, not a problem.

Des Moines: Center of the Chicago to Omaha route which is in suspeneded animation due to a stupid legislature in Iowa which refuses to put in any money.

Augusta, GA: I haven't seen *any* serious proposal. I suppose the Star could be diverted to Augusta; the tracks exist.

Scranton/Wilkes Barre, PA: Lackawanna Cutoff, yes, if they ever manage to make any progress.

Youngstown, OH: Diversion of the Cleveland-Pittsburgh route onto a route with an actual city, yes.

Chattanooga, TN: There are a number of highly speculative proposals here including lines from Bristol and from Atlanta.

Tri-Cities, TN: Bristol extension from Virginia.

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The Mexican Border cities suffer not only from any racial issues, but also from being a dead end (with the loss of passenger service in Mexico). The oddball exception is the occasionally mooted Monterrey-Laredo-San Antonio service.

 

As noted, in a few cases (Ogden, Baton Rouge, probably Akron) there either is presently or would be better service connecting those cities to Amtrak with a commuter line (as a matter of allocating resources) than you could hope to get from an Amtrak connection. In the case of Tennessee, the problem is that you've got a lot of routes which involve long, slow routings (Nashville-Louisville-Indianapolis is not quick at the moment, for example). Allentown is getting fouled up by local politics (the city wants to use the old station, which IIRC is a mess to access and/or there are missing tracks) as well as the SEPTA/NJT issues. Of course, the service would likely also be some sort of hybrid operation (not quite commuter, not quite intercity) or a commuter-esque operation. Put simply, a run from Allentown to Philly might not end up being Amtrak...

 

...and of course, there's also a slew of cities in Florida which could do well with service. Hopefully AAF/Brightline will slowly start taking care of that.

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It's not particularly hard to get to the old station in Allentown. The SEPTA/NJT issues are the most serious problems.

 

For decades the PA state government was openly hostile to funding rail service at all, and SEPTA looked inward solely towards its local-funding counties. This has changed, but quite recently; the rail-hostile faction in the state legislature seems to have evaporated, or lost so much influence as to be unimportant, just in the last couple of years.

 

NJT really doesn't want to look across the border, and worse, NJT has been pretty hostile to any service extensions whatsoever. Most changes under NJT management have been service cuts, including the deletion of service to Phillipsburg in 1983. I don't see much evidence that this has changed; Monmouth-Ocean-Middlesex promoters are still waiting. This isn't really the fault of NJT per se, it's the fault of rail-hostile administrations in New Jersey. Unfortunately, the situation hasn't changed in New Jersey, which still has an extraordinarily rail-hostile administration and legislature.

 

The next problem has been the freight haulers (now mostly NS) who own the lines which would be needed for final access to either Bethelehem or Allentown. There's a profusion of lines in gigantic rights-of-way, but for a long time they were quite uncooperative. Nobody's checked recently though. The section which needs to deal with them is only a few miles and surely something can be worked out given money.

 

The most serious problem for a long time was that Allentown and Bethlehem government officials didn't want or care about rail service. This *has* been resolved.

Edited by neroden

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In addition to neroden's mention of rail-hostile administrations in New Jersey (which exist on many levels, not just the state), NJT is currently a ship without a rudder. According to local newspaper articles, the woman who took over as transportation chief after the last one "resigned" is escaping to run transit in NYC, there's a budget crisis, there's an infrastructure crisis, and there's a governor saying there's no crisis.

 

NJT's response has been to raise fares, cut service, and treat its passengers like trash. And some of its passengers, who throw trash on the floor, put their feet on the seats or across the aisles, and curse loudly on their phone conversations, do not make it easy for the rest of us to be taken seriously as people who deserve respect from our commuter system.

 

The consensus among passenger train advocates seems to be that whoever heads NJT next will be just another political appointment, and that anyone truly qualified will run as fast as possible away from applying for the position.

 

Frankly, the NJT situation is making Amtrak look like a paragon of perfection in comparison.

 

All of this would be simply the headache of those of us who live in New Jersey, except that so many trains have to go through here. I am curious as to how this mess will affect the topic of this thread--if new routes are added in PA or NY, what problems could or will the current awful state of NJT cause? Or will everything simply run west or north of NJ?

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With regards to Augusta, perhaps a daytime Palmetto style service would use the Silver Star route to Columbia then over to Augusta on NS, if a physical connection could be built between those lines. Another idea would be extending the Carolinian, provided the schedule could be tightened up enough.

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In addition to neroden's mention of rail-hostile administrations in New Jersey (which exist on many levels, not just the state), NJT is currently a ship without a rudder. According to local newspaper articles, the woman who took over as transportation chief after the last one "resigned" is escaping to run transit in NYC, there's a budget crisis, there's an infrastructure crisis, and there's a governor saying there's no crisis.

 

NJT's response has been to raise fares, cut service, and treat its passengers like trash. And some of its passengers, who throw trash on the floor, put their feet on the seats or across the aisles, and curse loudly on their phone conversations, do not make it easy for the rest of us to be taken seriously as people who deserve respect from our commuter system.

 

The consensus among passenger train advocates seems to be that whoever heads NJT next will be just another political appointment, and that anyone truly qualified will run as fast as possible away from applying for the position.

 

Frankly, the NJT situation is making Amtrak look like a paragon of perfection in comparison.

 

All of this would be simply the headache of those of us who live in New Jersey, except that so many trains have to go through here. I am curious as to how this mess will affect the topic of this thread--if new routes are added in PA or NY, what problems could or will the current awful state of NJT cause? Or will everything simply run west or north of NJ?

NJT will get fixed as soon as NJ folks get off their duffs and stop electing self sserving relics from the 60s as their Governor. As long as they cannot do that nothing will improve.

 

The Allentown test is an Amtrak affair with what I am hearing is no involvement from NJT. I am hearing that it won't even run on a single inch of NJT tracks. It will run on NS tracks from CP Hunter to Allentown over the Hunter Connection from the NEC to the Lehigh Valley Line, the same one used by NJT RVL trains. but it will then not get onto NJT tracks at Aldene but instead continue on NS through the Musconetcong Tunnel to Easton and onward. Service to Allentown can be run entirely independent of NJT. Of course things could change too.

 

However that is not true regarding the Lackawanna Cutoff to Scranton. There is absolutely no way to get it done without NJT's cooperation, nor is there any way to get to the NJ end of it without traversing NJT tracks, wither the Morristown or the Boonton Line to Lake Hopatcong. But NJT has been dragging its feet on constructing anything on the Cutoff. If you compute railroad construction on a miles per year basis, NJT is vying to get a special award for the lowest number and soon will require using the inches per year unit instead of miles on what they have been upto on the Andover project on the Lackawanna Cutoff.

 

BTW, Ronnie Hakim and the last transport Commish of NJ both left because they saw the writing on the wall of them acting as the foil for Christie's incompetence. Both are very competent people and they did not want to sacrifice their own reputation for the sake of protecting Christie's. So they went on to greener pastures. Ronnie, I have met, talked to and I found her to be quite impressive. She came from MTA and she is going back there with a big promotion. Good for her. Meanwhile Christie appears to be too busy chasing after his impossible dream of becoming the President to care about what happens to NJ or NJ Transit. Last I heard he was on a bus tour of New Hampshire trying to get his rating upto half way to double digits or something like that :D

 

Anyway, either way for service that terminates in Pennsylvania, PennDOT or the PA counties will have to take the lead. They could contract out the running of the service to NJT like Metr-North does with their west of Hudson service. But beyond that NJT has typically not been allowed to do anything outside the state except running trains into Philly and New York by mostly the Democrats dominated legislature, who by the way, themselves are not great paragons of virtue when it comes to supporting NJT in a credible way. They behave with NJT almost exactly like the US Congress behaves with Amtrak. No one seems to have the guts to do the obvious that many Republican governed states have done, which is to raise the gas tax, and NJ residents live in the la la land opposing such hoping that the tooth fairy will come and fix their infrastructure. Well they are bout to discover the lack of existence of such one more time.

Edited by jis

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Thanks, jis--very detailed and informative response, as always. :)

 

The opposition to raising the gas tax here is unbelievable, bolstered by a new bunch of huge, gas-guzzling pickup trucks showing up on the streets of my small town and others like it (the trucks are bigger than some of the houses). Plus, here in South Jersey, those of us who commute by train are considered to be trash, even if we are professionals with better education and careers than those criticizing us. Before anything else can change, the mindset has to change, and I'm not sure how to even start on that. :(

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I feel your pain Patty! Is there anyway you can move out of Jersey and commute from PA.Delaware or NY to your job?

 

Lots of our members that are from Jersey have been able to move ( some to Florida which I know you like!😊)

away from the Fat Man's Swamp!!

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NJT will get fixed as soon as NJ folks get off their duffs and stop electing self sserving relics from the 60s as their Governor. As long as they cannot do that nothing will improve.

Yeah. I really don't understand what's going on with the electorate in New Jersey (and this predates Christie by at least three governors). I kind of get Long Island and Staten Island (where the prevailing political mood is ME ME ME), but New Jersey baffles me. Do you know that, at least until recently the Confederate battle flag was really popular in South Jersey? A *UNION STATE*? What happened?

 

 

The Jersey refusal to raise the gas tax is famous nationwide. And it is *bizarre*. The only state with lower gas taxes is *Alaska*. New Jersey doesn't even produce significant amounts of oil! There are three oil refineries left, but that's a lot less than most of the oil states. Driving in New Jersey is permanently horrendous due to traffic so it's not like cheap gas makes it easier to get around.

 

How does the most urbanized state in the Union have such an anti-urban attitude?

Edited by neroden

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Three refineries? Here in Montana we have three in billings and one in great falls. How do we have more?

That many huh? Texas and Louisiana have way too many, do ya'll want some?😊

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These Mexican Border cities suffer not only from any racial issues, but also from being a dead end (with the loss of passenger service in Mexico). ...

McAllen and Brownsville are two leading cities among a 100 or so municipalities in the populous region Texans call "the Valley", the counties along the lower end of the Rio Grande before it meets the Gulf of Mexico. Traditionally, irrigated farms produced lush crops -- using lots of very poorly paid Mexican-American farm labor. Well, they still do, tho many farms have been converted to subdivisions. But the "very poorly paid" part is as true as ever, causing low average per capita income. That would not help passenger rail succeed.

 

On the other hand, the Valley is almost as far south as Miami, with a balmy climate. During the winter it attracts a large number of migratory "snow birds" from Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the Dakotas. Some of them eventually settle year-round in the Valley. But even these Anglo retirees lack clout in Austin.

 

So improbably, there might be a good market for travelers between the Valley and "back home", if a route were ever started to the west of the Eagle and then overlapping it. A train could go, say, St Paul-Omaha-Kansas City-Okla City-Ft Worth-San Antonio-the Valley. But a decade from now such a dream route will remain merely a line on a map of wishes.

 

As for a state-supported corridor train to the Valley, nah. Nobody in Texas is even talking about corridor service linking San Antonio to Houston, two cities with populations well above a million each, only 220 miles apart. So nobody is going to push a train down to McAllen, nobody.

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I feel your pain Patty! Is there anyway you can move out of Jersey and commute from PA.Delaware or NY to your job?

 

Lots of our members that are from Jersey have been able to move ( some to Florida which I know you like!)

away from the Fat Man's Swamp!!

JIm--I'm not quite ready to move just yet. I actually do like my little town, and I have some good friends here. Also, it is one of the few walkable towns in NJ, it has a lot of Colonial history (almost as much as Philly, but nobody ever thought to market it), as well as some good restaurants, and for us dog lovers, almost every home has a dog whose person walks them around town. :) And the absolutely best thing is that I can hop on the light rail and get out of town whenever I want! :P

 

My apologies to all--once again, I have dithered off-topic. :( I guess the main points about New Jersey for this thread are that it can't pretend it's an island--it has to share the responsibility for train transportation and infrastructure with neighboring states. The other problem is that the train advocacy community in the state seems scattered (partly because of the north/south divide, which is always there, if not always obvious). Until I read an article in the local paper about NJT, I hadn't heard of a couple of the advocacy groups mentioned (and I follow rail closer than the average citizen).

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My apologies to all--once again, I have dithered off-topic. :( I guess the main points about New Jersey for this thread are that it can't pretend it's an island--it has to share the responsibility for train transportation and infrastructure with neighboring states. The other problem is that the train advocacy community in the state seems scattered (partly because of the north/south divide, which is always there, if not always obvious). Until I read an article in the local paper about NJT, I hadn't heard of a couple of the advocacy groups mentioned (and I follow rail closer than the average citizen).

There are only two rail advocacy groups active in South Jersey - DVARP and NJ-ARP, the former being more active than the latter in South Jersey.. South Jersey also has a problem of being somewhat of a wannabe at being more southern than the deep south. For example, I find south Florida to be less southern than South Jersey, much to my pleasant surprise! :)

 

In North Jersey there are several groups that are Jersey-centric and one or two New York City groups occasionally spill over into Jersey. The Jersey ones are NJ-ARP, Lackawanna Coalition, Raritan Valley Coalition, and an on again off again Jersey Shore outfit, which these days is off again. The primary spillover is TSTC. Of these only NJ-ARP and Lackawanna Coalition have any visibility in Trenton and at NJT and PANYNJ Board Meetings. Both NJ-ARP and DVARP are NARP affiliates, but independent of NARP as far as governance is concerned. But as I said, nothing will happen in NJ until the current Governor exits stage right. His incompetence is legendary (with the state legislature not too far behind I might add), as far as the overall management of the transportation infrastructure of the state is concerned.

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Sounds like you're in one of the "nice" Jersey Towns of which there are many,☺ but the Government and the Mob have basically made a mess out of the state and y'all pay for that!😢

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I'll comment on the Augusta service. While I would love to see it I don't see it as a SC service. I see it more as a Atlanta-Augusta service. I actually could see a Atlanta-Augusta-Columbia-Raleigh service being easier to pull off. But one issue everyone forgets is where the columbia station is. A new connection would be needed in Fairwold or a backup move from Devine junction.

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... I actually could see a Atlanta-Augusta-Columbia-Raleigh service being easier to pull off. But one issue everyone forgets is where the Columbia station is. A new connection would be needed in Fairwold or a backup move from Devine junction.

The PRIIA study looked at taking a train NEC-Charlotte-Columbia-Charleston-Savannah-points south. They remembered where the station is. One set of tracks carries the Silver Star. Another set of tracks would bring any trains from Charlotte. So you'd have two Amtrak stations, and you still couldn't get there from here. LOL.

 

Someone needs to spend big money to connect the tracks of the rival freight lines, so Amtrak can move from one to another to get where it's going, and stop at only one station to get there. Until then don't expect added service for Columbia, tho population and ridership figures suggest it's a ripe market for more Amtrak.

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My recommendation is to use the current station. Build the connection that was proposed way back in the Seaboard days at Fairworld from the NS R line to the CSX S line and abandon the R line from there on into columbia. Benefits to that routing it is mostly grade separated south of Fairwold. Plus it would eliminate the thru traffic in the middle of the USC campus. Granted the R line would still get local service for sure. But before columbia gets more service we need an updated station. It's current location isn't bad. But locating on the other side of Blossom would be better as one could place a platform for the current star and the NS r line to Augusta and SC line to Charleston. But it still needs a connection in Fairwold

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