A Solution to JaxPort's Rail Logistics Problem?

April 17, 2008 11 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The City and Port Authority believe spending $60 million for a new railyard may be the solution to the port's logistics problem. Metro Jacksonville offers up an alternative solution.


Metro Jacksonville: Why shouldn't the port construct its own intermodal railyard?

Bob Mann: Rail yards are "delay machines" in the railroad business, any car in the yard is NOT making money. There are only three reasons to construct any yard tracks at all, they are:

1. Storage of terminal owned container and specialty train cars for quick access by any shipper. In other words, car inventory and supply might be helped with a few storage tracks. Please note however that these are not revenue tracks. 

2. A small engine house, fuel and repair facility would make the terminal attractive to contract operators. Repairs come under two categories, RIP-rolling-repair which is done by all carriers to minor defects to equipment. Back shop repairs which handle major overhaul. 

3. Sorting of freight cars for local movement, again something done quickly on five or six tracks.
Bottom line, aside from a few tracks to make up trains or break down trains, and a possible engine or RIP track. No yard in the classic sense needs to be built anywhere.


MJ: Why should JaxPort and the City of Jacksonville purchase CSX's S-Line instead of building their own railyard?

BM: The benefit is neutral access to the port by all carriers. Today the port is captive and there is no choice of carriers, except for NS access to Talleyrand. The FEC once had access at Atlantic Marine in the Southside, but that is long since closed. Some of the costs would be off-set by FEC movements from the Port to Bowden Yard (I checked and YES they are moving them via truck cross-town!) FEC would have access to the port as would NS and CSX. The purchase and rebuilding of the "S" would afford us a tap line with income producing freight service on it, as well as open the door to rail transit on our own railroad line.
Also the railroads have little interest in "fishing" for traffic. Frankly the railroad would rather have the containers just show up at the Moncrief, Export, West Jax, Simpson, or Bowden Yard's. Having a shortline operator do the drilling usually suits the railroad management just fine.


MJ: What are the existing short line railroads operating in Jacksonville?

BM: Talleyrand Terminal Railroad (G&W RR, shorline family), Jax Port (Blount Island terminals), First Coast Railroad (St. Marys-Yulee-Fernandina Beach). There is also the Rail America headquarters coming to town, which will share space with FEC in the FEC offices. FEC is now the flagship property of RA. We also have a handful of industrial properties with their own captive railroads and equipment. History shows that quite often these companies go railroading when an opportunity such as this presents. 



 Orange = Major JaxPort Terminals

Blue = CSX

Gray = Norfolk Southern

Green = Florida East Coast

Red = Short Line Railroads

Yellow = Major Railyards 


Current Situation:

 Currently the Tallyrand Terminal is the only Port facility that can directly ship goods to multiple railroad companies.  The others are forced to rely only on CSX Transportation.  This will result in additional truck traffic throughout town to access CSX's Westside railyards, as well as Norfolk Southern and Florida East Coast railyards.


Metro Jacksonville solution:

As opposed to building a new $60 million railyard off Heckscher Drive, we suggest JaxPort, JTA and the City of Jacksonville purchase the CSX line serving JaxPort's terminals in the Northside and reconstruct the former S-Line rail line.  Under the ownership of JaxPort, all port terminals would have direct access to all three major railroad lines and their yards in Jacksonville.  This move enhances the port's attraction and removes additional truck traffic off the city's streets.


Mass Transit as a side benefit:

This move would also allow the JTA to have direct access to a rail line that could stretch from downtown to the airport and up to Fernandina Beach for commuter or light rail use. The rail line could also become a dedicated stream of revenue by leasing the track to a short line operator to serve the growing amount of industries throughout the Northside.

Before JaxPort moves forward with spending millions of dollars on a railyard that still does not give ultimate access to all major railroads operating in the area, we urge our public officials to take a look at the situation from a larger perspective and consider outright purchasing the rail lines heading into our port terminals.

Article is a joint effort between Metro Jacksonville's Ennis Davis & Transportation Consultant Bob Mann