Project Purpose and Timeline

What is the purpose and need statement?

The purpose and need statement sets the stage for consideration of the alternatives. It has three parts, the purpose, the need and goals and objectives.

  • The purpose defines the transportation problem to be solved.
  • The need provides data to support the purpose.
  • The goals and objectives describe other issues that need to be resolved as part of a successful solution to the problem.

Why is the project needed?

The need for this project can be summarized as a result of the following factors:

  • As trains travel through the project area and block roadway crossings, often for long stretches of time, vehicle congestion and delay increase and mobility decreases.
    • An evaluation of the rail and road crossings within the study area determined that based on the existing traffic and number of trains coming through the area, over 10 existing at-grade crossings should be grade separated to improve traffic congestion and increase safety.
  • According to the Central Midlands Council of Governments, the population within the area is expected to increase between 33 and over 150 percent between now and 2050, with most of the growth focused in the downtown areas. Population growth, coupled with increase in development, will increase travel demand and, in turn, increase the potential for vehicle delays due to stopping during rail crossings.
  • Vehicle traffic waiting for trains to clear an intersection often result in a loss of productive time and increased energy costs.

According to the SC State Rail Plan, freight rail traffic throughout the state and within the area is projected to increase; this paired with an increase in population and development provides the need to focus on safety within the project area and reduce the risk of collisions and accidents between all users.

What is the purpose of the Assembly Street project?

The existing CSX and Norfolk-Southern (or NS) tracks occupy the same corridor as they enter Columbia through Andrews Yard from the southeast. However, these tracks spread out and cross over Assembly Street, in several locations, and divide the University of South Carolina campus. Assembly Street is a heavily traveled arterial and the combination of increased vehicular traffic congestion, freight rail volume and slow train traffic speeds results in unacceptable delays (both to vehicles and trains), increased air and noise pollution, and increased danger to pedestrians.

Additionally, it impedes the revitalization of the downtown area along one of Columbia’s primary gateways to the city. The downtown area has continued to see an increase in residential development and with an increase in development, other uses tend to follow including commercial/retail and other support services for the residential growth.

The result of more people living in the city center and surrounding areas will be the need to efficiently move the additional pedestrians and vehicles that come with them. Improving and grade-separating the Assembly Street at-grade railroad crossings would help address these needs and could play a vital role in development, redevelopment and major streetscape improvements for the Assembly Street corridor.

The primary purpose of this project is to implement a transportation solution that would improve vehicular operations in order to alleviate vehicle congestion associated with frequent freight rail movements through the project area.


Assembly Street Railroad Separation Timeline Map Image.


Secondary needs of the project include:

  • Improving safety by reducing conflict points for all modes of transportation
  • Implementing improvements at rail and road crossings
  • Improving mobility for freight by eliminating hard rail crossings, upgrading special track work and rail infrastructure.

In addition, project goals and objectives include minimizing community and environmental impacts.



Assembly Street Railroad Separation Timeline Map Image.

*Subject to change | View larger version (pdf document)