A panel of neighbors and business people will unveil findings Thursday from a review of railroad blockage problems that have plagued central Rock Hill for a half-century.
The public can ask questions and weigh in after presentations from group members and officials on how the railroad operates in Rock Hill.
In a series of lengthy and, at times, tedious meetings since summer, group members explored fixes for a conflict perceived as pitting downtown business interests against a pair of nearby mill villages.
Every solution, the group found, creates a new set of potential headaches.
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Downtown boosters want an end to the gridlock caused by long lines of stopped freight cars. They support a plan that could shift train-switching operations away from downtown and closer to the neighborhoods, which lie to the northeast off Dave Lyle Boulevard.
Neighbors fear the outcome will shift the problem toward their homes.
But the proposed changes aren't as bad as many fear, said Gary Williams of Williams & Fudge, a company headquartered in downtown.
The extension of a sidetrack will not leave trains sitting parked for hours in the neighborhoods, Williams said.
"There are exceptions, but those cars shouldn't stay longer than 30 minutes to an hour," Williams said. "You assume it's a Chicago cattle yard, and it's just a little side track where 20 to 25 cars will be sitting for a period of time."
The situation took on urgency after the city's purchase of the former Bleachery textile site. Crews are tearing down much of the property along White Street to make way for future redevelopment with homes and businesses.
Commerce can't flourish as long as freight cars routinely block streets, business owners say.
Efforts to placate neighbors
Group members floated a wide range of possibilities - a pedestrian tunnel, elevated foot bridge and heavy shrubbery to shield trains from view. Two outdated street crossings in the neighborhood could close in favor of a new, safer crossing.
As part of the solution, city officials want a federal "quiet zone" to block trains from blowing their horns as they rumble through town.
Trains carry plastic resins, lumber, roofing products and other materials through Rock Hill, often making stops at the AbitibiBowater paper mill in Catawba.
Rail traffic will only increase in coming years, Norfolk Southern told the group. More companies are turning to rail as they struggle with high gas prices and aging highways.
City Council members appointed the panel in July and must decide how to proceed with its findings.
Want to go?
WHAT: Neighborhood meeting hosted by railroad study group
WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Gym at Bethel United Methodist Church, 1232 Curtis St., Rock Hill
For information, contact Bill Meyer of the city of Rock Hill at 803-326-3879