06 April, 2009

BLUEPRINT FOR JAXPORT IS FOUND IN COMMUTER RAIL



Unlike other Florida cities, Jacksonville alone is a sea of railroad tracks. One time home to the Worlds Busiest Passenger Terminal (during the Great Florida Boom of the Roaring Twenty's), and certainly one of the largest Terminal Stations in the nation. 32 tracks, split roughly 60/40 stub and through, the great station served every passenger train entering or exiting the state (with few exceptions) until 1974.

Today freight trains of Norfolk Southern, CSX and Florida East Coast still rumble past the silent platforms and pedestrian tunnels. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has an eye on Commuter Rail, and has completed the first two studies which have laid out a 90 mile starter system on three distinct rail lines, North, Southeast, Southwest.


Meanwhile over at JaxPort, the talk is all about building a new rail yard that they suppose will whisk away 2 Million Containers a year. Currently ranked number 19 in North America in container volume and number 2 in automotive imports, the new terminals built around trade with the Orient promise to rocket us into the number 3 or 4 position in the Nation. Dredge the river channel for Post Panamax ships, build the new rail yard, and everything will be rosy... Well not quite.

So here is a recent headline article in the Jacksonville Business Journal, taken from the recent seminars, breakfasts and meetings on JaxPort. They elude to the unknown that dredging and another railroad yard will be the fix we need. Their going to be sorely disappointed.

Game on for Jacksonville
Jacksonville Business Journal

Jacksonville’s economic development marching orders came across loud and clear at the Global Trade and Transportation breakfast this week: Find $500 million from federal, state and local government to dredge the St. Johns River to handle larger ships, make sure the Hanjin shipping company joins Mitsui to cement the city’s Asian trade ties, and finish the road and rail improvements needed to maximize the port’s ability to move cargo.


Succeed at these tasks and cement Jacksonville’s future as a premier port on the East Coast, while broadening the city’s economic base considerably. Or fail, and watch the ports of Savannah, Charleston and Norfolk eat our lunch. Yes, the choice is that clear-cut.
The river dredging is the linchpin. Here’s why:

The reason the shippers Mitsui and Hanjin want terminals here is to develop a hub for direct trade from Asia to the East Coast. The Panama Canal is being improved to allow larger cargo ships through, which are more cost-efficient for the shippers. The canal improvements should be done by 2014.
So what is the fix?



Blue Lines = Florida East Coast

Green Lines = CSXT

Black Lines = Norfolk Southern

Red Lines = Shortlines
Pink and Purple Lines = Abandoned rail subject to rebuilding
YELLOW LINES = Subject of this article and JTA/JPA Future North Line Commuter Rail District


The fix for JAXPORT is Commuter Rail North, plain and simple, the City buying the entire former CSX Kingsland Subdivision, and perhaps the Norfolk Southern's St. Johns River Terminal rail lines. From the Export Yard near the Stadium, Grand Crossing in the Westside through the Springfield Yard, Talleyrand Terminals, over the Trout River, to Blount Island, TriPac and all the way to Yulee. Getting JTA and JPA to create The Jacksonville RAIL Authority, and getting said Authority to quickly rebuild the former "S Line" between Union Terminal, and Springfield Yard, establishing Commuter Rail, at least as far North as the International Airport.

So what does JaxPort have to do with Commuter Trains and railroads? Glad you asked. At this point over 1/2 of our port is locked into CSX. For all the railroad diversity we have downtown, the Florida East Coast and Norfolk Southern are effectively cut out of the game. Saying our port is served by 3 major railroads is misleading when more then half of the terminals are captive. What good is it to try and sell shippers on the 3 railroad package when CSX says it will take them 5 full days to move a box car from Blount Island on the City's Northside, the the FEC / NS interchanges near Jacksonville Terminal.


If the City of Jacksonville and FDOT bought the former Seaboard Air Line Mainline, replaced the missing link from Jacksonville Terminal to Springfield Yard (already in City hands), it would effectively open the door to ease traffic congestion. Moreover it could all be operated as the JaxPort Railroad, a terminal road with neutral switching access by all carriers. Who needs a new rail yard when we already have the largely empty Springfield Yard which could easily be rehabilitated into a first class container facility. Who needs a one railroad port, when we already have plans for Commuter Rail on those same tracks? Why not bust the port wide open and create a quick, responsive, shortline/terminal road.

Not only would CSX retain every carload that any customer currently requests via a CSX routing, The Florida East Coast and Norfolk Southern wouldn't have to bypass the Port and hustle everything to the new Titusville Intermodal facility in order the expedite shipments. Moreover by linking Port/ACE + Freight Railroad/FRA + Transit/FTA + Commuter Rail/FRA + Station Security/DHS, and beautification/FDOT, we open hundreds of more avenues by which to obtain those vital federal grants.

Then, and only then, will we be able to honestly claim we have 3 railroad service choices for our port shippers. Only then will we be able to control the destiny of our Commuter Rail and Passenger Terminal. The day that the first RDC car rumbles over the Trout River and the big diesels of FEC or NS freely mix with CSX out at Tri-Pac, JaxPort and JTA will have come of age.

TAMPA STREETCAR TO EXPAND

Large double truck Birney type car is leading Tampa's open car through Channelside.


Tampa Bay Online reports that the Hillsboro Area Regional Transit (HART) has received federal stimulus money to expand the TECO streetcar line.


About $1 million, will go toward extending the streetcar into downtown. The nearly $5 million project is poised to begin this summer. The board approved a contract with Kimmins Contracting Corp. this morning.


HART wants to extend the streetcar system about four blocks, from outside the Tampa Convention Center to Whiting Street, in the hope of boosting ridership between downtown, the Channelside District and Ybor City. Officials said the project will take about nine months.

KANSAS CITY SOUTHERN COMING TO JACKSONVILLE?


Is this a sign of the mega-railroad of the near future? Norfolk Southern + Kansas City Southern + Florida East Coast, would be one hell of a marriage. Such a merger would create a line from New England to Central Mexico, and from Kansas City to Miami. Of course there is no official word or even a good roumor that this might come about, but with the railroad industry continuing to be riding high, adding capacity and miles, anything could happen. Jacksonville's transportation watchers will enjoy seeing the occasional colorful Kansas City Southern Diesels rolling through our City. Someone at the Chamber of Commerce needs to remind KCS and NS where the nations fastest growth port is... Got wheat and corn? We have ships, lots and lots of ships.



Kansas City Southern Railway, Florida East Coast and Norfolk Southern Railway on March 30 began offering container and trailer service from Dallas to the Norfolk Southern - Florida East Coast, new Titusville, Fla., terminal. Traffic is routed over KCSR from Dallas to Meridian, Miss.; and over NS from Meridian to Jacksonville, and the Floridca East Coast from Jacksonville to Titusville. Previously, KCSR moved central Florida-destined intermodal shipments to Meridian, and NS moved the loads from Meridian to the Norfolk Southern's massive intermodal terminal in Jacksonville's Simpson Yard, where it was trucked to various distribution centers. The new routing provides intermodal marketing companies and asset providers a more cost-effective option, and enables KCSR to be more competitive with over-the-road carriers, the Class I said.

On The Grow In The Port of Jacksonville


Culled from the Jacksonville and the Charlotte NC Business Journal the following articles which give our readers an idea of things to come. With the second new Oriental Terminal moving into construction, it seems the sky is the limit. Even in these bad economic times, Jacksonville seems to have at least one guiding light. JaxPort.


Monday, April 6, 2009, 1:48pm EDT
Fascination embarks record number of passengers from Jacksonville
Jacksonville Business Journal
The Jacksonville Port Authority’s cruise terminal set a record last week when 2,623 passengers embarked on Carnival Cruise Lines’ Fascination cruise to Half Moon Cay and Nassau, Bahamas.

The previous record for a single cruise was 2,539 passengers, set earlier this year. The record-breaking cruise comes after the authority pulled back on its plans to build a $60 million terminal in Mayport Village to focus on its cargo business and see how the cruise industry weathers the recession.


Port of Jacksonville traffic edges up
Jacksonville Business Journal

The amount of traffic through the Port of Jacksonville in fiscal year 2008 increased by 1 percent to nearly 8.4 million tons, compared to 2007, according to its recently released annual report.

The port remains the nation’s second busiest vehicle handling port and 12th busiest container port.

The authority’s operating revenue increased by 6.2 percent to $42.4 million.

Its operating expenses increased by $5 million to $30 million, while its operating income fell from $14.5 million to $12 million.

Roll-on-roll-off traffic — mainly cars, trucks and heavy equipment — increased by 7 percent to its record level of about 567,000 units.

Bulk cargo, which includes crushed limestone and other aggregates, increased by nearly 10 percent to about $2.5 million tons.

Breakbulk cargo, which includes lumber, paper and steel, fell about 18 percent to 950,000 tons.

Container traffic remained steady at about 3.6 million tons.

TAKE A FREE TOUR OF THE JACKSONVILLE SKYWAY

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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