Two CSX officials made a presentation Monday night to the Florida Bipartisan Civic Affairs Group. A spirited Q & A session followed.
• Earth-shattering, ground breaking, hot off the press news wasn’t to be found. This was “restate the CSX story for another civic group.” The players: Daniel Murphy (CSX Director of Public Projects) and Cameron Wilson (CSX Director of Acquisitions). I counted 24 attendees (not counting reporter Billy Townsend or myself.) County Commissioner Jean Reed was in there in both body and spirit as she asked asked questions of the CSX team.
• This was one of the more statistic driven presentations I’ve attended. The presentation model was obviously “Persuasive.”
• Current CSX rail traffic: A-Line 17 trains per day and S-Line 20 trains per day. When CSX closes the S-Line they’ll add an additional four trains per day through Lakeland. As I’ve stated before….this number is misleading. It just isn’t the number of trains passing through Lakeland, but the length of those trains. Neither official was able to provide a solid number when asked how many feet of train we will have travel through Downtown Lakeland when the hub is first operational. The talking point is “4 trains” and they’re sticking to it.
• Why is train length important? Sit at South Florida and watch a 3000 foot train go by at 20 mph, and then sit at that same crossing when the train is three times as long.
• (By the way, approximately 20 mph is the CSX average systemwide* according to Murphy.)
• Tonight’s theme “We’re just moving a facility.” Wilson especially stayed on point by using that phrase. The gist was, the state wanted the Orlando tracks and CSX needed to move their Taft Yard. CSX said they looked at more than a dozen sites that fit their criteria. Al Whittle challenged the CSX officials to explain the process used to pick the Winter Haven location. Much discussion followed. Nothing was resolved.
• Jobs. Jobs. Jobs. Forget the 8500 number. Pretend you never heard it, because that depends on the hub attracting many businesses, and the number isn’t for employees in Winter Haven. Try these numbers:
• Somewhere below 200. They expect the terminal to need 200 employees, but will offer present Taft Yard employees the opportunity to transfer. So, less than 200 new jobs for Winter Haven.
• 1370 temporary construction jobs for whoever builds the thing. However, most construction companies are going to bring in their own people.
• 1800 jobs for the ILC
• As soon as opening CSX expects 1000 trucks a day to move in and out of the facility. Every truck that goes in has to come out. So that means 2000 trips in or out of the gate. That’s an average of a truck about every 43 seconds.
• A long discussion followed where the CSX officials were asked why they had measured “growth potential, but not impact potential.” The concern was raised that CSX was offering plenty of possible job numbers based on optimistic growth, but could not supply the same numbers for impact items (trucks traveling to and from the facility for example).
• CSX expects the facility to be operational 12 to 18 months after construction starts.
• CSX will own the terminal, but will not develop the rest of the facilities. They’ll find someone to do that for them.
• Wilson made the point that products arriving at the Winter Haven facility are destined for this area. Less so will products move from Polk County to points outside Florida.
• CSX made the point (more than once) there would be no tanker cars, or huge concentrations of hazardous materials.
I suggested to Murphy that CSX create a clearing house of information relating to this project. Too many numbers seem nebulous. Having a single place where numbers could checked would help ensure accuracy.
update: * See comments.