Who is Running This Train?

On May 1, 2008, just before the Florida House and Senate failed to approve the CSX Project a news release was rushed to area officials and the media. It read in part:

“In addition, FTA has received and is finalizing agency approval of the Florida Department of Transportation’s (FDOT) project impact report. This report was recently required by FTA to examine noise, vibration, and rail crossing safety impacts along CSX Railroad’s S-Line that runs through the center of the state. Several residents along this alignment had expressed concerns about the impacts of additional freight traffic through the corridor, which CSX estimates will be an additional four trains per day. FDOT’s report found the impacts of the additional freight traffic will be negligible, which are the most highly favorable results the report could offer.”– Full release

Those interested in the project reported they had been given assurances that they would have a “formal opportunity to express their concerns.” The press release caught them by surprise as they had not been given that chance by the FDOT and the FTA.

It wasn’t a surprise that the release came from the office of Congressman John L. Mica, the Ranking Republican on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure.

Mica had sent a “threatening letter” to the Florida legislature urging them to vote for the project.

When the project failed at the state level, Mica took over.

In this morning’s Daytona Beach News Journal:

Mica is undeterred.

He secured a continuing commitment from CSX. He got the state Department of Transportation to go forward with the project, promising to keep designing the stations and routes and keep buying land for parking. He corralled assurances from the federal authorities to hold the money for Central Florida for a year. And he did it over the weekend.

By his projections, the only damage the recalcitrant Legislature did to the $1.2 billion train is to delay its opening six months.

The News-Journal also offers this quote: “If you push Central Florida back and it doesn’t get a (train), then there’s no possibility of a project linking Tampa to Orlando,” Mica said

The article doesn’t explain where Mica thinks a rail from Orlando to Tampa would be placed. CSX officials have been oft-quoted that the rail from Tampa to the East is not for sale.