Lakeland Kills Commuter Rail?!

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Opinion

On the off chance you missed it, you’ll want to read part one of Empirical Polk’s new mini-series What’s Next in the CSX ILC Commuter Rail Future?.

Josh asked some important questions. I’m looking forward to his answers.

However, I disagree with Josh that Lakeland killed the “commuter rail portion” of the CSX deal. CSX killed the commuter rail portion of the deal.

Commuter rail was never CSX’s goal. They don’t move people, they move freight. Selling 61 miles of extra track through a large city full of problem crossings, irritated politicians, and angry drivers was like Sunday ice cream for CSX.

Getting a modern ILC, rail improvements, and having taxpayers pay for it? That’s the chocolate topping, cherry and nuts.

Except CSX wanted sprinkles too.

They overreached when they required the liability waiver. Business leaders wouldn’t blame them for asking. After all, wouldn’t you like to drive to work every day knowing you’d be held blameless for any mistake you made? Well, if not blameless, then at least blame with a monetary cap.

As the Sentinel reported, the liability issue brought in the Florida Justice Association. Now, that group has considerable pull. They were the anchors in the CSX deal tug of war. They weren’t against commuter rail either. They simply wanted to make sure there was no liability waiver.

Of the people in Lakeland I’ve talked to who were against the CSX project, none expressed a desire to kill commuter rail. Lakeland kills commuter rail? That’s just a sound bite.

When you discuss the CSX project around the water cooler and someone throws out that sound bite, gently inform them that a small group of citizens worked hard against secret back room deals, poorly planned projects, and a government bureaucracy hell-bent on stifling community input.

Not as glib, but far more factual.