The Sentinel editorial page was at it again recently, stomping feet and labelling people who object to corporate giveaways and freight train disruption in their downtown cores “haters” and other such silliness.
We sure are selfish over here. After all, these freight trains and this looming industrial corridor really aren’t that big of a deal. Don’t we understand that CSX provides a valuable freight service, for which we should all be thankful? And, I mean, these Orlando folks have just wanted commuter rail for so long. It’s been such a high priority. It’s so important for mobility. And did I mention the freight traffic really isn’t that big a deal? Surely, if they could, those Orlando folks would keep it because it’s really a minor issue, right?
Hmmm. From the Sentinel, A1, Oct. 15, 2002, Part 3 of a 4-part series called Breaking the Gridlock.
Headline: Rerouting Trains Could Ease Backups; But Diverting Them From Orlando’s Center Would Come At A Steep Price
“Twinkies and beer, it turns out, do a remarkably good job of blocking traffic. Of course, anything packed in a mile-long freight train stops traffic. Just ask Central Florida drivers. About a dozen times a day, their trips through Winter Park, Orlando and other parts or urban Orange County are halted by engines and freight cars rumbling across the region’s urban midsection.
“Those trains, hauling everything from coal to auto parts – and even the spongy snack cakes – can shut down an intersection for five minutes or more. Over the course of an entire day, that’s nothing. But to commuters hurrying to work or racing to pick up a child at day care, it’s an eternity….
“…For 20 years, there have been sporadic calls to move train traffic [You mean calls for commuter rail, right? It’s such a priority, right?] out of downtown Orlando, but the effort has never picked up steam. It’s a great idea, offcials say, but no one has been willing to take on the tab, which could top $400 million. Now, however, Orange County Chairman Rich Crotty has appointed a 21-member committee to find a way to get traffic moving in car-clogged Central Florida. And while most of his proposal focuses on bigger and better roads, it’s also raising the question of what to do with the freight tracks that run right through the heart of downtown.
“…Today, about 12 freight trains and five passenger trains lumber through downtown every day…[Lakeland can expect at least double that as the rail relocation and deal play out over the next 10 to 15 years, according to a new state study.]….
“…The best chance for moving freight may come if local leaders decide to run commuter rail through Orlando. Already, John Mica, R-CSX [OK, that’s mine] has secured about $8 million in federal money…
“…”It’ll have to be tied to a mass transit project,” Mica said. “That’s the only way.” [That, and finding a state Department of Transportation willing to dump one city’s problem onto another with no warning, discussion, or mitigation.]
Again, not a passenger rail deal, folks. It begins and ends with freight rail, as Mica himself so elegantly puts it. None of this is new. I reported these basic facts back when I worked for The Trib, but it was funny to discover this story as I was fishing around through some stuff. I can’t link to the whole thing, It’s too old. I just saw a hard copy.
I don’t know who’s writing the editorials for the Sentinel now that Jane Healy is retired, or whatever. But come on guys – Healy, Mike Thomas, whoever, read your own paper and have a little honor. You could very easily write: “Yes, yes, we got over and stuck it secretly to cities in west Central Florida – and probably the rest of Florida – with the help of DOT. We understand why they might be mad, but, ces’t la vie…” That would be intellectually honest. At least stop whining. You’re the big kids kicking sand in everybody’s face. My goodness, Mica and Jeb put this deal together, and you’re being bullied? Please. It’s not enough to get over? You have to complain about people realizing you’re getting over?
Or, if you actually wanted to be responsible, you could write: “Yes, yes, we got over and stuck it secretly to cities in west Central Florida – and probably the rest of Florida – with the help of DOT. Maybe that was a mistake. We understand why they might be mad, and maybe we ought to work on a way to improve this for everyone.”
I won’t hold my breath.