Central Florida Commuter Rail Deal may help JacksonvilleAugust 4, 2006 5 comments Print Article
CSX Transportation recently announced an agreement in principal to sell 61 miles of the A-Line, from DeLand to Poinciana, to the State of Florida for a proposed Central Florida Commuter Rail operation. The railroad plans to divert most freight traffic away from Orlando and onto the parallel S-Line, which runs from Baldwin to Plant City. Most freight traffic through Jacksonville will be sent to Baldwin, and then continue south on the S-Line to central Florida.
The state will invest $318 million to improve the infrastructure and expand capacity on existing train tracks, including:
- $198 million for projects on the CSXT rail line between Baldwin to Plant City, referred to as the "S" line,
- $59 million to build five road overpasses in Alachua, Sumter and Marion counties on this line,
- $52 million on other CSXT rail lines around the state, and
- $9 million to build access roads to the new Integrated Logistics Center in Winter Haven, which will be built by CSXT.
Phase 1 will consist of a 31-mile segment that will serve 10 stations, linking DeBary to Orlando. Service could begin as soon as 2009 just as FDOT starts a major I-4 reconstruction project through the heart of Central Florida, from State Road 434 in Longwood to Kirkman Road in southwest Orange County
The deal does depend on several contingencies:
- Costs of any environmental contamination cleanup must be agreed upon.
- CSX's new Integrated Logistics Center in Winter Haven must get approval.
- Prior to closing on the property, funding from the Federal Transit Administration as well as Volusia, Seminole, Orange, and Osceola Counties must be in place for the Central Florida Commuter Rail project.
Gov. Jeb Bush alongside CSX CEO Michael Ward pictured in front of the demonstration DMU.
Interior of the Bi-Level Colorado Railcar DMU.
How does this affect Jacksonville?
Metro Jacksonville recently completed a five part series on the benefits of commuter rail in Jacksonville and how it could successfully be implemented. The Central Florida Commuter Rail plan has unintentionally cleared a major hurdle for Jacksonville.
The Central Florida plan requires CSX freight trains to predominately operate on what is known as the S-Line, which runs from Baldwin to Central Florida. The only logical connection between the S-Line and the A-line is from Jacksonville to Baldwin, effectively shifting freight traffic patterns away from the Jacksonville to Orange Park line.
This plan has the potential to remove a significant amount of traffic currently operating on the A-Line in Jacksonville. With less freight traffic operating over this line, CSX may be much more receptive to hosting commuter rail on a line with available capacity. The State of Florida has now shown its commitment to bringing commuter rail to congested areas. It only makes sense to look at the unique situation this has created in Jacksonville.
This map clearly shows the rerouting of freight traffic in yellow and the affect it will have on Jacksonville. Most of the freight trains will head due west from Jacksonville, instead of the current route south on the A-Line. This will reduce the amount of freight trains scheduled to travel along Roosevelt Blvd and into Orange Park. The 61 mile segment being purchased by the State of Florida is highlighted in blue.
This CSX intermodal train crossing the Ortega River may soon be rerouted to Baldwin and down the S-Line through Ocala, potentially opening up commuter rail possibilities along the route.