St. Augustine Backs Rail Project. Will Jacksonville?June 25, 2009 38 comments Print Article
On Monday, June 22, 2009, the St. Augustine City Commission became the latest Florida community to support returning passenger rail service between Jacksonville and Miami.
Resolution 2009-13, Requesting Prioritization of the Intercity Rail Component of the FEC Corridor Project was approved unanimously by the St. Augustine City Commission. The word out of 100 North Myrtle Street is that JTA is now on board.
At this point it appears that the Jacksonville city council has yet to show support for backing this passenger rail plan that could have a significant positive impact on the city.
To expedite this process, Metro Jacksonville has written a Resolution of Support for the Jacksonville City Council to endorse before time runs out and our community misses the boat once again.
To: Jacksonville City Council Members
From: Metro Jacksonville
Date: June 25, 2009
Subject: Resolution Supporting the Inclusion of the Intercity Rail Component of the Florida East Coast (FEC) Corridor Project as a part of Floridas Economic Stimulus Plan
The purpose of this item is to have Council adopt a resolution supporting the inclusion of the Intercity Rail component of the FEC Corridor Project (from Jacksonville to Miami) as a part of Floridas economic stimulus plan. The project would enable Amtrak to operate a corridor passenger train service on the FEC Corridor between Jacksonville and Miami. Reintroducing passenger service on the FEC Corridor has been a high priority for Amtrak since 2000.
In early 2000, Amtrak, FEC, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and regional authorities agreed to a service concept to reintroduce passenger rail along Floridas east coast on the FEC Corridor. Thirteen preliminary station locations, primarily in downtowns, were identified between Jacksonville and West Palm Beach, including St. Augustine. The new Amtrak long-distance service was anticipated to utilize existing FEC tracks, with limited additional track sidings as needed. An interconnection in West Palm Beach between FEC and CSX tracks would connect this corridor to Amtrak stations south to Miami. This general alignment is included in the 2006 Florida Rail Plan, which was developed by the FDOT, as a potential "East Coast Route" for long distance and new corridor rail service, and illustrated in the map graphic titled "Figure 5.6 Florida Intercity Passenger Rail Service Vision Plan Coastal Route" (identified in blue on the map).
Negotiations were nearly completed between Amtrak, FDOT, and the FEC. However, in 2002, the Federal government directed Amtrak to suspend negotiations pending revisions to Amtraks budget and debt structure. Since then, the Federal loan provisions have been satisfied, and Amtrak began investigating new service alignments last year. In 2008, Amtraks budget was nearly doubled to $13 Billion over five years (2009 through 2014), allowing the carrier to better expand its operations. The January 2009 economic stimulus legislation directs an additional $8 Billion to states specifically to develop new corridor and long distance services and is being acted upon by states across the country.
Discussions with JTA and Amtrak representatives indicate the Amtrak/FEC Corridor Project (Jacksonville to Miami) could be an appropriate project for Florida to request as a part of the Federal economic stimulus package termed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan. New long distance and intercity corridor service would complement on-going mass transportation efforts in North Florida, such as Jacksonville Transportation Authoritys (JTA) commuter rail and streetcar studies.
The cost to carry out the Amtrak/FEC Corridor Project is estimated to be approximately $100 million. It should be noted that an Amtrak project would compete for a different source of Federal funding than local commuter rail, streetcar and highway projects. Further, a Jacksonville/Miami Amtrak project would include increasing FEC track capacity between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, which could shift this capital expense away from future Southside/St. Johns County commuter rail service, thereby improving the cost/benefit ratio for a Jacksonville to St. Augustine FEC commuter rail link. In addition, an Amtrak/FEC Corridor Project could serve as a potential funding source to bring Amtrak and passenger rail service back to Downtown and JTAs proposed Jacksonville Transportation Center.
The image above indicates with the addition of a station or two, between Downtown Jacksonville and St. Augustine, how Amtraks FEC Corridor service could be used by local commuters between Downtown and the rapidly growing areas of the Southside and Northern St. Johns County.
The reintroduction of passenger transit on the FEC Corridor throughout the Region is an important component of the successful and sustainable redevelopment of the Region. The reintroduction of passenger transit on the FEC Corridor has been a major priority of the region for nearly two decades. As a part of the larger state-wide transit system, expanded Amtrak service could provide enhanced inter- and intra-regional mobility as well as economic development throughout the First Coast. Amtrak's regional rail service would complement JTAs proposed commuter rail system and serve as a transit alternative during the reconstruction of the I-95 Overland Bridge and JTB Interchange projects, projected to get underway during the next decade. Recent discussions with Amtrak representatives suggest good potential for this project to be advanced if included as a part of Floridas request for Federal economic stimulus money.
Moving this project forward will require the State of Florida to include the Intercity FEC Corridor Project (Jacksonville/Miami) as a part of its Federal economic stimulus request. The request should be initiated by FDOT, and the Jacksonville City Council should promote support among the Regions Legislative and Congressional delegation, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), the North Florida TPO and affected local governments along potential Amtrak corridors. If needed, Council staff would be available to assist with gathering land use, economic, and other relevant data as well as coordination with FDOT, the JTA, and other agencies as necessary. Council draft Resolution ----- which supports making this request, is included with this report.
It is recommended that Council: 1) adopt Resolution ---- supporting the inclusion of the Intercity FEC Corridor Project (Jacksonville/Miami) as part of Floridas request for Federal economic stimulus money; 2) transmit the resolution to the Governor, the Secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation, and Floridas Legislative and Congressional delegation; and 3) transmit the resolution to FDOT District 2, the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), and affected local government along the Florida East Coast Railway Corridor, with a request to adopt similar resolutions of support.
If Jacksonville is proactive, supporting passenger rail's return to the FEC corridor could open the closed financial door to returning Amtrak back to Downtown Jacksonville. Having multiple statewide intercity rail corridors meet in downtown Jacksonville could bring potential transit oriented development opportunities to LaVilla and increase traffic for existing downtown businesses.
Washington, DC's Union Station is an example of what our proposed downtown Jacksonville Transportation Center can become. However, to have the level of vibrancy that Union Station has achieved, returning Amtrak to downtown and passenger rail to our rapidly growing southeast corridor is a must. Amtrak's investment in upgrading FEC's track infrastructure to allow for passenger trains could also reduce costs on the local taxpayer for future commuter rail between Downtown and St. Augustine.
A RESOLUTION OF THE JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL REQUESTING THE ASSISTANCE OF GOVERNOR CRIST AND FLORIDA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY KOPELOUSOS TO PRIORITIZE THE INTERCITY RAIL COMPONENT OF THE FEC CORRIDOR PROJECT (FROM JACKSONVILLE TO MIAMI) AS PART OF THE FEDERAL ECONOMIC STIMULUS PACKAGE FOR THE STATE OF FLORIDA
WHEREAS, the Florida East Coast (FEC) railroad corridor was historically operated as a passenger rail line along Floridas east coast, traversing or providing rail connections to urban areas like the City of Jacksonville; and
WHEREAS, Floridas east coast historically developed around train stations along the FEC railroad; and
WHEREAS, local governments and the private sector along Floridas east coast are currently implementing programs to invest in transit oriented developments around train stations; and
WHEREAS, improved mobility is highly desired in the City of Jacksonville and throughout the State of Florida; and
WHEREAS, transit, including rail transit, is a key component of improved mobility, especially between cities and throughout Floridas east coast; and
WHEREAS, the 2006 Florida Rail Plan identifies passenger transit along the FEC corridor as a potential Coastal Route for new passenger rail service in the State of Florida; and
WHEREAS, Amtrak is well-suited to provide passenger rail service along Floridas east coast; and
WHEREAS, station locations in the Jacksonville Region should include a minimum of Downtown Jacksonville, The Avenues and St. Augustine; and
WHEREAS, the reintroduction of Amtrak service along Floridas east coast would provide near-term jobs and economic stimulus for Floridas residents and businesses; and
WHEREAS, the Federal Government is seeking appropriate projects for inclusion in the Federal economic stimulus package to provide immediate and near-term job opportunities for projects; and
WHEREAS, the Intercity FEC Corridor Project (Jacksonville/Miami) is an appropriate project for inclusion by the State of Florida in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan; and
WHEREAS, former work by Amtrak and FDOT includes plans for the improvements necessary to initiate Amtrak service on the FEC corridor; and
WHEREAS, the State works with Amtrak to introduce a statewide corridor service between Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and Miami.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED BY THE JACKSONVILLE CITY COUNCIL:
The Jacksonville City Council requests the assistance of Governor Crist and FDOT Secretary Kopelousos to prioritize the Amtrak/FEC Corridor Project (from Jacksonville to Miami) as part of the Federal economic stimulus package for the State of Florida.
We encourage everyone to send an email to the city council and mayors office asking that they please support Amtrak returning to the Florida East Coast Railway between downtown Jacksonville and Miami.
E-mail all Council Members at firstname.lastname@example.org
City Council Member Phone Numbers and e-mail addresses:
District 1: Clay Yarborough (904) 630-1389; Clay@coj.net
District 2: William Bishop (904) 630-1392; WBishop@coj.net
District 3: Richard Clark (904) 630-1386; RClark@coj.net
District 4: Don Redman (904) 630-1394; Redman@coj.net
District 5: Art Shad (904) 630-1382; AShad@coj.net
District 6: Jack Webb (904) 630-1388; Webb@coj.net
District 7: Dr. Johnny Gaffney (904) 630-1384; Gaffney@coj.net
District 8: E. Denise Lee (904) 630-1385; EDLee@coj.net
District 9: Warren A. Jones (904) 630-1395; WAJones@coj.net
District 10: Reginald L. Brown (904) 630-1684; RBrown@coj.net
District 11: Ray Holt (904) 630-1383; Holt@coj.net
District 12: Daniel Davis (904) 630-1380; DDavis@coj.net
District 13: Art Graham (904) 630-1397; ArtG@coj.net
District 14: Michael Corrigan (904) 630-1390; Corrigan@coj.net
At-Large Council Members
Group 1: Ronnie Fussell (904) 630-1393; RonnieF@coj.net
Group 2: John R. Crescimbeni (904) 630-1381; JRC@coj.net
Group 3: Stephen C. Joost (904) 630-1396; Joost@coj.net
Group 4: Kevin Hyde (904) 630-1398; KHyde@coj.net
Group 5: Glorious J. Johnson (904) 630-1387; GloriousJ@coj.net
Article by Ennis Davis