Rock Hill Ward 6

Reno: Train fix in works for downtown Rock Hill

adouglas@heraldonline.comApril 16, 2013 

— City leaders may be close to solving problems caused by trains sitting at a standstill on the railroad track near downtown Rock Hill, council member Jim Reno said at a Tuesday meeting.

When the Norfolk Southern train changes cars at the Trade Street switchyard, traffic is often held up at two crossings near downtown.

The city has held public forums in the past to address the issue with local businesses that have said the stalled train hurts the local economy by preventing customers from reaching certain areas of town.

Residents also have complained for years that the sound of the train switching cars late at night is a nuisance.

The Community Street area near the tracks was once part of Reno’s council district, called Ward 6.

Rock Hill’s Ward 6 includes the northern end of Cherry Road, including Riverwalk and the city’s Outdoor Center. Reno’s ward also includes the Fewell Park area, the eastern side of Cherry Road and many neighborhoods along Charlotte Avenue, near Winthrop University.

The majority of the neighborhoods affected by the stopped train – and many of the people who will gain the most from improvements under the city’s plan – are now part of council member Kevin Sutton’s district as a result of redistricting based on the 2010 census.

Engineering plans to improve traffic flow near the railroad tracks are about half finished, Reno said.

Plans call for reconfiguring the Community Street crossing, closing the crossing at Mill Street and building a new path over the tracks at Quantz Street.

Some of the money for construction will come from the federal government’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement program.

The city is still in talks with the railroad company and hopes it might help pay for the improvements, Reno said.

Tuesday’s Ward 6 meeting was the third in a series of meetings with Rock Hill Mayor Doug Echols and council members in their respective wards.

One resident, Timm Johnson, questioned whether the city is on the same page with Winthrop in terms of development plans and elements of the joint “college town action plan.”

The DiGiorgio Campus Center, which opened in 2010, features several eateries, a theater and a post office.

Under the college town plan, Winthrop and the city want to encourage students to stay in Rock Hill over the weekend and be engaged with activities and businesses off campus.

Some local restaurants “feel cheated,” Johnson said, that Winthrop built a new center with several food options, which doesn’t encourage students to eat off campus.

A student residency requirement and a new apartment complex built for Winthrop students in 2003, he said, has affected local neighborhoods, leaving many houses vacant that were once rented by college-aged people. Johnson lives near the Winthrop Coliseum.

Winthrop requires its freshmen and sophomores to live on campus unless they live with a parent within 50 miles of the university.

The university bought from Rock Hill a 12-acre site formerly used as the city’s operations center.

Rock Hill officials and Winthrop representatives are working in tandem, Echols said, to grow together in many ways.

The old operations center land is considered part of the city’s newest economic development push, called “Knowledge Park,” a jobs-creation strategy centered on the former Rock Hill Printing & Finishing Co. property.

Ten developers recently submitted proposals for vacant buildings and available land.

The next neighborhood meeting is at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in the Emmett Scott Recreation Center community room at 801 Crawford Road. Echols and councilman Osbey Roddey will attend the Ward 5 meeting. Meetings are held within each council member’s ward, but anyone may attend.

Anna Douglas •  803-329-4068

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