Street car talks ‘on track’ in Rock Hill, Knowledge Park

Posted August 14, 2014 7:37 pm | Filed under Featured, Local News

Calling it a potential major boost to the city’s efforts in developing the Knowledge Park corridor, Rock Hill’s Economic Development Corporation is reviving a decade-old discussion of a future streetcar in the city’s downtown corridor.

City Council and staff heard from RHEDC Executive Director Stephen Turner and Knowledge Park Leadership Group chairman Andy Shene Thursday about the possibilities for a street car that would run off battery powered vehicles and driven along an in-road track.

The most recent feasibility study put a price tag on the project at $20 million with another $1 million in annual operational costs. The tracks would span from Cherry Road to the Old Town East Park, snaking along East Main and East Black Streets, parallel to Dave Lyle Blvd. and down the middle of the former Bleachery site before connecting to the Winthrop campus.

Discussion on the project was put on hold two years ago pending the city’s selection of a master developer for the Knowledge Park. Now that New Jersey-based Sora Phelps is on board, Turner and Shene felt it was time to move forward.

“I think there’s been other areas of our country that are similar to us…where we saw that street car come into play,” Shene said. “If we’re going to make the Knowledge Park work, if we’re going to move somebody from Winthrop University to come have lunch downtown or if we’re going to have a conference at a hotel that’s going to be built’s gotta be part of the future strategic plan for us to be successful.”

Mayor Doug Echols recently traveled to Washington, D.C., and met with U.S. Transportation Secretary and former Charlotte mayor Anthony Foxx, who told him federal dollars for the project won’t be doled out without commitment from the business sector.

“You have to reach the right timing, density and capacity to go to the federal government,” Echols said. “They’re not just going to give you a bunch of money to build it in hopes that people will ride.

Echols and Shene both plan to discuss the idea with Sora Phelps, who will utilize its own resources to determine the best course of action.

City leaders hope to have a better idea on how much the project would cost in 2014 dollars and its feasibility in the months ahead.