Cross-posted from Metro I-4 News.
As you may have noticed, two of the possible freight realignment routes – seemingly the only available routes – for downtown Lakeland involved reactivating the track that became the Van Fleet Trail between Wildwood and Auburndale. At least one of them would then reactivate closed tracks that run through the very heart of downtown Winter Haven, which would make for wonderful poetic justice. And at least one would run into a new park in Auburndale. In a shocking development, government officials with Auburndale and Winter Haven are less than enthusiastic about those ideas.
Auburndale Special Projects Director Cindy Hummel reacted with “total fury” to the route that would run through the park, according to the News Chief.
What follows is the letter I imagine Winter Haven Chamber Pres. Bob Gernert and City Manager David Greene are crafting right now to set her straight.
We read recently that you are angry about the possibility of rerouting freight traffic in ways that may affect the public spaces you’ve spent lots of money to enhance. That’s understandable. But you have to get over it. In the grand scheme of things, in this economy, public spaces must be sacrificed.
We here in the Winter Haven government and business elite are honest and upstanding about our commitments, and we’ve stated publicly that we want to help Lakeland with the rerouting made necessary partly because of our ILC.
As Bob wrote on Oct. 16, 2008: “Lakeland’s agenda includes rerouting freight traffic away from downtown. The Florida Department of Transportation is currently studying the feasibility for just such rerouting. We support Lakeland’s quest for the best solution possible.”
A map and common sense will tell you that the Van Fleet Trail line is the most efficient way to reroute freight traffic from Lakeland’s core and avoid creating a longterm industrial corridor/freight superhighway leading into the ILC. And you know, none of us – including you and Bobby Green – had any concern about this deal when it was dumping the bad parts in the middle of Lakeland’s public projects. Jack Myers even talked about how much you guys like trains, if we remember correctly. It’s only fair and right that we, who have supported and fought for this plan, embrace its consequences. We must all sacrifice a little for the greater glory of CSX, economic development, and the regional unity embodied by the “One Polk” organization.
And honestly, trains and parks and trails can coexist quite well together. We in Winter Haven have a much greater sacrifice to make. Bob’s already looking for new office space to replace the chamber office that will be demolished to make room for the revitalized line through downtown. But that’s a small price to pay to for 100 jobs or so at the ILC and the big financial boost for Phoenix Industries and Highland Cassidy. So get on board, Cindy.
Yours Truly In Freight,
Bob Gernert and David Greene