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Stunning Things Are Happening As Florida Goes Rail

The announcement from Florida East Coast Industries of a new private passenger rail service is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. In an article that started as the mere musings of a retired railroad consultant, Metro Jacksonville blows the lid off huge changes in the Sunshine State. This is bigger than Jacksonville, bigger than 'All Aboard Florida' - this is just the start of an epic change in thinking as Florida goes rail.

Published April 10, 2012 in Transit      15 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


A regional freight benefit for that ‘other’ Fortress property?

While I don’t think a new freight connector is a driving force in the ‘All Aboard Florida’ plan, it will be region wide benefit. As far back as 1980, the Federal Government frowned on a $600 million dollar plan to create a major coal port at Port Canaveral that would be served by the Florida East Coast Railway using segments of the NASA Railroad. At that time they were afraid of train interference with the Space Shuttle program. The project was being pushed by Hvide Marine, Florida East Coast Railway, Canaveral Port Authority, joined by Florida Power and Light, when the companies studied the costs of building the rail link themselves across the Banana River, Merritt Island, Sykes Creek and the Indian River a $20 million (1980's) dollar cost was a project killer. Unbelievably among the potential customers released by Hvide, one finds the Jacksonville Electric Authority.

Luck is changing for Port Canaveral, and this railroad project, could be its ticket into the big leagues of world cargo ports. Today the Florida East Coast, like Flagler Development and FECI are part of the Fortress Investment Group LLC (NYSE: “FIG”) a leading global investment manager with approximately $43.7 billion of assets under management as of December 31, 2011. That Fort Lauderdale based marine operator is now part of Seacor Holdings, a company with revenues of $2.1 billion. Florida Power and Light became FPL holdings with power generation assets in 20 states, now called Nextera Energy a fortune 200 company. This time around the players are different, Port Canaveral will be joined by the full power of the State of Florida and the Federal Government, not to mention tossing in CSX, Norfolk Southern and a host of other players.




Tampa is not on the initial route, but it's Union Station is up, ready and waiting. (Photo en.wikipedia.org)

Is Jacksonville another collateral beneficiary ?

“The plan is to have the South Florida-to-Orlando route service running in 2014. The feasibility studies currently underway will better crystallize the next steps to move the project forward.  Any inferences to a temporary connecting service would be incorrect.”

It appears from this communication that FECI has no intention of running a train until the entire route is complete from Miami, Cocoa and Orlando. So what about Jacksonville?  It is almost a certainty that if Miami–Orlando is a success, some of these trains could be running through to Jacksonville in the near future and we won’t have to wait for 40 miles of track construction.

Jacksonville in the bigger passenger train picture?

Aside from and unrelated to what is going on, on the FECI project, there is the Orlando Sunrail system, an actual commuter rail operation (think more passengers and less amenities) stretching from Deland to Poinciana. Sunrail will be up and running within the same rough time frame. Could it be that Tallahassee and Central Florida has discovered train operation is cheaper than building more freeway lanes?  Once Sunrail is running, you can bet Tampa and hopefully Jacksonville will be onboard.

Remember that trains from the north and trains from the south all converge within shouting distance of Jacksonville Terminal Station. Florida East Coast Railway has agreements to operate on the Norfolk Southern all the way to Atlanta, and the CEO of NS recently said something to the effect that they will operate any future passenger service over their own tracks. Where do they go? The Norfolk Southern runs from Jacksonville to Atlanta via Valdosta and is fairly close to I-75. Miami-Atlanta anyone?

Florida is an originating or terminating state for all railroads, that cross its borders and every line that enters the peninsular, passes right through Jacksonville. Jacksonville's geographic position as the hub between all lines north, Midwest and west and all lines south into peninsular Florida, makes us a natural hub even with the apathetic tendencies at City Hall.

Jacksonville is solidly on the map of the Southeast High Speed Rail System as it's southern terminus. SEHSR, like its cousins in Illinois, Michigan and New York, is actually moving along at a fairly rapid pace. The railroad is being built logically, in incremental steps, including a recent announcement of a grant allowing the next step toward restoration of the old Seaboard Railroad, Virginia - North Carolina 'S' line link. If this sounds familiar, it should, that's the same 'S' line that passes alongside north Main Street from Jacksonville, into South Georgia. The day might be approaching when the entirety of the old Seaboard route between Jacksonville and Savannah is reconstructed.

Meanwhile in schizophrenic spurts, Amtrak is talking of more service between New York and Florida. The number I’ve heard from Amtrak officials is 6 trains to the northeast within a ‘reasonable time.’ Consider that those trains, while not high speed, could easily be the start of extending the Northeast Corridor into Florida.  Even if the Republicans take complete control of the government and kill Amtrak’s national long-distance system, it is unlikely that those senators and congressmen will scrap this link in their Florida vacation plans.


(MetroJacksonville photo)

How do we get to the Temple?

To achieve any of these goals there has to be a single, central, downtown, Jacksonville Terminal Station and if I'm not mistaken, that's what is carved in stone above those 14 massive sandstone columns at 1000 West Bay Street. Done right, that substantial head-house, as a multimodal station building would allow travelers to, as they once said, "Enter Jacksonville like a god."

Article by Robert Mann


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15 Comments

Garden guy

April 10, 2012, 05:26:54 AM
For many years i have been staying on an historic island down in the keys for a week that was home to the mens who took the tracks to key west..its called Pigeon key. Those boys from new york worked their butts off. Anyone interested in rail history should visit. Historic society members are allowed to sleep in the formans house. The tiny island  is full of history. That was 1900...too bad we havent seen even more rail.

aclchampion

April 10, 2012, 07:43:54 AM
Nicely written article.

jaxlore

April 10, 2012, 08:59:44 AM
good stuff very informative.

JeffreyS

April 10, 2012, 07:52:19 PM
A nice peek behind the curtain. If Jacksonville will open the terminal downtown you will see that route to Jax happen quickly. I bet.

Ocklawaha

April 10, 2012, 10:55:38 PM
I agree JeffreyS, Jacksonville simply HAS TO get off it's collective caboose and kick into step with the rest of this state. It's either do it now, or Jacksonville is going to be the 'new' Biloxi.

Moreover, Jacksonville's Mayor and business council's could easily host a pre-train conference, where the mayors or representatives of all of the FEC RY cities, Amtrak Florida stops as well as Valdosta - Tifton - Macon - Atlanta. I think when we get Miami, Jacksonville and Atlanta in the same room all we'll have to do is jump out of the way because this is going to happen.

OCKLAWAHA

simms3

April 10, 2012, 11:05:32 PM
This was very interesting and well researched/well written.  I hope for all of this progress to be made.

thelakelander

April 10, 2012, 11:44:57 PM
Great article.  I hope the FECI project is a success.  It could end up being a huge boost for Brevard County, with the closing of the shuttle program.  Also, whatever success it has, quickly opens up the door for market rate expansion into Jacksonville.

BackinJax05

April 13, 2012, 12:19:55 AM
Great story. This could benefit Amtrak, too. If the S-Line was rebuilt from the St. Marys River to Savannah, Amtrak could run their NY-Miami trains on it saving time, money, and fuel. The Jesup stop would be eliminated, but does anyone go there?
Imagine a NY-Miami train on the FEC line from Miami-Jax, then the CSuX S-Line from Jax-SAV, then on to NYP. This train wouldnt stop in Orlando, but a link to Orlando could be at Port Canaveral. This would help Port Canaveral with not only people going to Orlando & Disney, but also cruise ship passengers.
As for Amtrak running Miami to Atlanta on FEC/NS, this has been needed for over 40 years! Maybe one day that train could be extended to Nashville, Louisville, Indianapolis, & Chicago.
All wishful thinking, but as flying and driving become more difficult the train is the best alternative.
Some people are critical of Amtrak, but as a seasoned Amtrak passenger I can say Amtrak really does the best with what they have.

Ocklawaha

April 13, 2012, 01:06:04 PM
Reconstruction of the entire 'S' line north of Jacksonville would be a Godsend for Southeast High Speed Rail AND for Amtrak. The 'S' is many miles shorter then the route CSX retained between Jacksonville and Savannah, running along the edge of the coastal marshes.

Look for this to be upgraded between downtown and Yulee or Gross within the next few years as the new Blount Island Terminal connector (to Waycross) is relaid between Callahan and Yulee or Gross (the maps say they'll use the Gross cut-off, but the older Yulee - Callahan route would benefit Jacksonville more as it is shorter.

Amtrak could easily mix or operate (as they do now) the first of the corridor trains on SEHSR, currently running Charlotte - Raleigh - NYC.

As for extensions north of Atlanta, there is always a push for Nashville - Louisville - Chicago, but the Norfolk Southern Route runs Atlanta - Chattanooga - Knoxville (west) - Frankfort - Cincinnati. This was once the route of the FEC-Southern Ry, 'PONCE DE LEON' and 'ROYAL PALM'. I believe it holds a huge benefit over the other route, and that benefit is the Cincinnati Union Terminal. At Cincinnati (not unlike Jacksonville) the trains can be split with sections operating:

Cincinnati - Indianapolis - Chicago
Cincinnati - Dayton - Toledo - Detroit
Cincinnati - Columbus - Cleveland and even Buffalo if the desire is there.

OCK

BackinJax05

April 14, 2012, 12:00:16 AM
Hey, Ock! Been reading your posts for quite some time now.

As I've said before, pulling up the S-line was one of the stupidest things CSuX has ever done. And they wonder why there's so much traffic on the A-line.

The NS route from Atlanta-Cincinnati would probably work, too. The Royal Palm and Ponce De Leon were before my time, but Ive always been a fan of the old Southern Railway. Thanks to EBay, Ive managed to find quite a few items from when Southern ran passneger trains. SCL, ACL, SAL, & FEC, too.

Anyway, the track improvements you mentioned for Blount Island will benefit freight traffic and hopefully, add new jobs to the area.
Reconstruction of the entire 'S' line north of Jacksonville would be a Godsend for Southeast High Speed Rail AND for Amtrak. The 'S' is many miles shorter then the route CSX retained between Jacksonville and Savannah, running along the edge of the coastal marshes.

Look for this to be upgraded between downtown and Yulee or Gross within the next few years as the new Blount Island Terminal connector (to Waycross) is relaid between Callahan and Yulee or Gross (the maps say they'll use the Gross cut-off, but the older Yulee - Callahan route would benefit Jacksonville more as it is shorter.

Amtrak could easily mix or operate (as they do now) the first of the corridor trains on SEHSR, currently running Charlotte - Raleigh - NYC.

As for extensions north of Atlanta, there is always a push for Nashville - Louisville - Chicago, but the Norfolk Southern Route runs Atlanta - Chattanooga - Knoxville (west) - Frankfort - Cincinnati. This was once the route of the FEC-Southern Ry, 'PONCE DE LEON' and 'ROYAL PALM'. I believe it holds a huge benefit over the other route, and that benefit is the Cincinnati Union Terminal. At Cincinnati (not unlike Jacksonville) the trains can be split with sections operating:

Cincinnati - Indianapolis - Chicago
Cincinnati - Dayton - Toledo - Detroit
Cincinnati - Columbus - Cleveland and even Buffalo if the desire is there.

OCK

JohnBalzer

April 23, 2012, 01:17:06 PM
This rail project is exactly what Florida needs to help spark the economy. The benefit to Floridians is obvious and all of this happening with private money is wonderful. I cannot wait to get on one of these new trains and be able to ride from Miami to Jacksonville in comfort.

BackinJax05

April 25, 2012, 01:52:00 AM
Same here. I especially cant wait to FINALLY ride across the FEC railway bridge. That's worth buying a ticket by itself.

Ocklawaha

October 20, 2014, 06:02:33 PM
BUMP ^^^



As I was saying; "Pay no attention to those new passenger trains running to Orlando... It's freight that serves up the cash."

So now, how do you market the Port of Miami? By selling rail, and selling JACKSONVILLE!

This just launched:

Quote
JACKSONVILLE, Fla., Oct. 20, 2014 /PRNewswire/ -- Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) and PortMiami, through a strategic alliance, are offering the Sunshine Gateway service, which includes on-dock intermodal rail capabilities.  This seamless ship to rail transfer allows the port to handle additional volumes and ensures that shipments move more quickly and efficiently with the potential to reach 70 percent of the United States population in four days or less.

"Our goal has always been to facilitate the process of cargo shipments for fast and efficient delivery to our customers," said Juan M. Kuryla, PortMiami Director.  "Through our partnership with FECR, we are expanding access for shipments coming into and out of the port to reach their final destinations seamlessly and with greater reliability."

Another proactive step has been the PortMiami -50 ft. deep dredge project enabling the port to handle larger TEU vessels.  Kuryla stated, "Our investments in infrastructure and collaboration with innovative providers like FECR, ensure that we are well positioned for the Panama Canal expansion."

President and CEO James R. Hertwig noted, "In today's global marketplace, shippers often need solutions that go beyond the United States borders and involve multiple modes to move goods from the point of origin to the final destination.  In order to meet the needs of supply chain managers, it is important for various modes of transportation to work together seamlessly.  We are pleased with the positive impact we have seen as a result of our partnership with PortMiami and look forward to continuing to provide effective solutions for shippers."

In January 2015, FECR and PortMiami will hold an event celebrating this new service.

About PortMiami
PortMiami is among America's busiest ports and recognized across the globe with the dual distinction of being the Cruise Capital of the World and the Cargo Gateway of the Americas. PortMiami contributes more than $27 billion annually to the South Florida economy and helps provide direct and indirect employment for more than 207,000. For more information please visit www.miamidade.gov/portmiami.

About Florida East Coast Railway
Based in Jacksonville, Florida, Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) is committed to providing customers with outstanding reliability, flexibility and connectivity. The company provides a wide range of economical services, including carload and door-to-door intermodal solutions across North America.  In addition, FECR connects customers to worldwide locations through its strategic partnerships with PortMiami and other South Florida partners.  For more information, visit www.fecrwy.com.

Photo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141017/152913-INFO
Logo - http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20141017/152914LOGO 

SOURCE PortMiami; Florida East Coast Railway

spuwho

October 20, 2014, 07:59:13 PM
Odd. They show Cocoa Beach /  Orlando as a freight route.

Havent heard of any plans for freight yards or transfer facilities on the AAF ROW. Also the agreement for OOCEA was for AAF's LLC. I never saw any language that allows FEC freight. So if AAF going lease trackage rights back to themselves to help the books?

Didnt they say that freight wouldnt be part of that deal to keep the tracks rated for 125mph?

thelakelander

October 20, 2014, 10:25:03 PM
As I was saying; "Pay no attention to those new passenger trains running to Orlando... It's freight that serves up the cash."

So now, how do you market the Port of Miami? By selling rail, and selling JACKSONVILLE!

I can't say this is surprising. A freight connection to the fastest growing major metropolitan area in the state makes a ton of sense for FEC. Nice move by Miami has well. Selling Jacksonville to their benefit?  Cut throat!
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