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R. J. Corman Railroad Co. Carolina Lines and Horry County, South Carolina, officials yesterday broke ground for a $17.5 million track upgrade project.To be completed in spring 2022, the project calls for upgrading nine miles of rail, replacing 60,000 ties, improving nine bridges — including a complete rebuild of a 220-foot bridge that spans the Crab Tree Swamp in Conway — and rehabilitating 39 grade crossings.The work primarily will be funded by a $9.8 million Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant awarded by the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2016. R. J. Corman and the state of South Carolina also will contribute funds for the project. In 2015, R. J. Corman Railroad purchased the former Carolina Southern Railroad and spent more than $3 million to restore freight service. R. J. Corman Railroad Carolina Lines interchanges with CSX in Mullins.But due to the disrepair of the track prior to the acquisition, trains still are limited to speeds of 5 mph and 10 mph, R. J. Corman officials said in a press release. Upgrading the track will increase train speeds to 25 mph, improve transportation for local industries and provide the area an economic boost, they said.The project will involve about 60 R. J. Corman employees and various machinery, including rail- and tie-gang equipment, track hoes, tampers, regulators, and ballast cars and side-dump cars.An R. J. Corman Railroad Group LLC subsidiary, R. J. Corman Railroad operates 13 short lines.