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A North Carolina bill proposing to establish a state commission to help develop and promote freight-rail service between South Carolina and southeastern North Carolina became law late last week without Gov. Pat McCrory's signature.The legislation establishes the North Carolina and South Carolina rail compact. Representatives from both states have been trying to negotiate a purchase of the Carolina Southern Railroad, a 95-mile short line that ceased operations in 2012.The bill creates half of a North Carolina-South Carolina commission, with North Carolina's four-member commission to feature one appointee each from the state House and Senate, North Carolina Railroad Co. and North Carolina Department of Commerce. But the new body will have the power to acquire infrastructure on behalf of the state without reporting to any state agency that has the expertise to acquire and maintain rail infrastructure, said McCrory in a prepared statement."I have reservations about this legislation, but the new commission will not become effective until South Carolina adopts similar legislation and may require congressional approval, as well," he said. "No funds have been appropriated that would enable the commission to purchase the rail line, and the commission’s other duties are advisory in nature, and therefore appropriate for a commission. In the interim, I will allow this bill to become law."Although he's encouraged by recent developments in negotiations between the local governments and railroad that's "carving a path toward a solution for freight-rail service in this region," the acquisition of the railroad by the public sector should be the last resort, McCrory believes."As local officials in North Carolina and South Carolina move forward, my departments of Commerce and Transportation, along with others in my administration, will continue to support the broader goal of economic development in this region through existing state and local organizations," he said.
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