22 January, 2009


Several times people from around the world have tapped into this blog looking for information on the port location and railroad access here in Jacksonville. I thought we'd look at this from both the positives of rapid growth which has earned us the nickname "The Port Of Gold", to the negatives of piecemeal rail services.

First the location of JAXPORT. Consider if you will a major seaport that is located exactly 1/2 way between Miami, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia. This location puts 2/3 Rds of the population of the United States within 24 hours from our docks to your containers destination. One also has to surrender the old thinking of the East Coast as a rather straight line - similar to the west coast of the United States, it's simply not true. In fact the East Coast of the USA reaches so far east that in Maine it is only across a river from the "Atlantic Time Zone". Boston is South of that locale, and New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington are not only South but quite west of Maines Location. There is a slight buldge just sough of Norfolk, Virginia, in the storm prone Carolina Outter Banks, but then as the coast continues South it also continues West. The Western Most Port on the Atlantic Ocean is Jacksonville, Florida's, JAXPORT.

JAXPORT is so far west that if you drew a line on a globe you might be amazed to find the lat.-long. GPS cordinates for Jacksonville to be N 30.33and W 81.65 compaire this with Boston, Massachucetts 42°. 20' N and 71° .06' W, Jacksonville is a full 10 degrees West. The real shock to most citizens is when they note that Jacksonville is almost directly below, CLEVELAND, OHIO at: 41.46' N and 81.65' W. This means as an East coast port and beach city, we're 128 miles west of Pittsburgh, Pensylvannia - and far enough south that cold winters or large mountain ranges need not play a part in your shipping or travel worries. Just how far west is west? Well you could ship and travel from the West Florida Ports of Key West or Naples, but Jacksonville is just as far west as they are. In fact the whole pensulia of Florida is angled back toward the South and EAST so as one travels south, the East coast of Florida moves farther and farther East of the Panama Canal.

Why not just build in Miami, West Palm Beach, Naples or Tampa? Frankly these are all nice cities blessed with beautiful weather, but their port and transportation space is used up on the east coast, and the prices are in the stratosphere. Tampa and Naples on the other hand have room and decent development prices, but they are locked into a single rail carrier and shallow water with a Interstate Highway bridge restricting the height of all traffic in and out of Tampa Bay.

The fact that Jacksonville is the sole railroad gateway to Florida is quite important to shipping lines, industrial concerns, warehousing complexes and travelers. Being located near the Georgia border at the base of Florida's Crown, Jacksonville is 500 miles from Key West. So unless you are shipping all of your cargo within Florida, that's 500 extra miles more or less, of transportation on every container or every passenger. Going West with that shipment or trip? Pensacola is another 400 miles West from Jacksonville. So locating elsewhere in this state could add as much as 900 miles to your transportation costs just to get out of Florida. Most people are amazed that it's much less distance from New York City to Chicago, then from Key West to Pensacola, Florida. In fact Pensacola is closer to St. Louis, Missouri, then the lower coasts of Florida.

So what is the hangup with JAXPORT and rail transportation? Nothing that couldn't be fixed with some creative investments, either private or public.

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The arguments rage to this date, "Should have never been built," "waste of taxpayer money," "Doesn't go anywhere," "Nobody rides it..." etc. Bottom line is we have it, and it is finally showing signs of life. Simple extensions to the Stadium, San Marco, and the area of Blue Cross in North Riverside would turn this little train around. Addition of Park and Ride garages and multimodal transit terminals at the end points would bring on the crowds. The video must have been shot on a Sunday Morning, as downtown is certainly as packed with life as any other major City on weekdays. Jacksonville is a city of Bikes, joggers, walkers, buses and cars, one almost wonders how the photographer managed to find this quiet moment.

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