DOT and Orlando Legislators Reward Lakeland Government’s Diplomacy With The Hand

I guess you mostly have to feel sorry for Lakeland city government officials, who apparently have worked hard behind the scenes with Florida’s Department of Transportation and Orlando-area legislators to get language calling, without qualification, for the elimination of CSX deal freight traffic within 8 years into the legislation authorizing the deal. The only way to eliminate such traffic, short of a magic wand, is to reroute it out of the downtown core. This would have benefits for Tampa Bay by moving some freight off of the east-west line linking Tampa and Orlando through Lakeland. City officials, as I understand it, have been counting on regional help from Bay area power players to cut a deal to this effect.

Put aside for a second whether such statuatory language would have any meaning – I don’t think it would -and just consider the question of including it and mandating a rerouting around Lakeland’s core. On that question, the city suffered two big setbacks in recent days.

The first came last week with the unveiling of preliminary cost estimates for potential alternate freight routes. As City Commissioner Gow Fields pointed out in his interview with Chuck a few days ago, the only real logistical and political possibility for rerouting is to use the former rail line-turned-Van Fleet Trail between Wildwood and Polk City. However, DOT’s study of alternate routes pegged the Van Fleet option at $1.2 billion, easily the most expensive of the would-be alternatives studied. $1.2 billion is DOT-speak for “not gonna happen.” There has been grumbling that DOT went out of its way to drive up the final number, including unnecessary costs in its study.

I asked Fields about that last night, and he just said, “They didn’t lowball us.” City Manager Doug Thomas, who along with Fields has spearheaded Lakeland’s approach to the deal, called the costs “staggering” during last week’s meeting.

Fast forward to yesterday. During a Senate Transportation Committee meeting, Sen. Paula Dockery called Orlando’s bluff on the Lakeland language by suggesting an amendment to Sen. Lee Constantine’s rail deal legislation that simply would have adopted the unequivocal rerouting language already adopted by the House. Keep in mind, Constantine is the Orlando-area legislator the city has been negotiating with all this time over this very language. So when push came to shove, what was his answer? Nope.


He said the language amounts to a blank check, and he can’t support it.
Honestly, given the massive price tag ginned up by DOT, it’s hard to blame Constantine. Though blank checks for this deal haven’t seemed to bother him or other supporters until now.

The committee’s rejection of Dockery’s amendment set off some rather pathetic dissembling by Constantine, which I happened to watch on replay last night. He said first that he’s been in negotiations with Lakeland officials and that they are happy with the current rerouting language, which is full of weasel words like “if practicable” or “if feasible.” Then he said, despite Lakeland’s happiness with the language, that he would have new language that Lakeland would be happy with by the time the bill reached the Senate floor. He didn’t say what it was. Then he said he would have the new language before it reached the floor so senators could review it. Then he again said Lakeland was happy with all of those things. Then he said trust me, I’ll take care of Lakeland. I promise. And you know I get things done and do what I say, etc., etc. Or something very close to that. I didn’t write it down.

All in all, it left Constantine’s position harder to unravel than AIG’s balance sheet.

When I talked to Fields last night, he wasn’t certain of exactly what happened at the committee meeting. But he made it clear that city government would oppose the deal if the language equivocated, as it currently does. The city is not happy with Constantine’s current language. Period. Fields also said that unveiling new language on the floor was not the agreement the city thought it had with Constantine.

Objective observers might conclude that such a state of events – grossly expensive rerouting and dissembling senators – indicates the state and the Orlando cabal have no intention whatsoever to help Lakeland. It might suggest that they’ve been using the city to try to string things out and isolate Dockery. This is how good faith is rewarded when you’re dealing with people acting in bad faith. And thankfully, Sen. Dockery put that on display for everyone yesterday.

20 thoughts on “DOT and Orlando Legislators Reward Lakeland Government’s Diplomacy With The Hand

  1. I, too, watched the hearing. I found it interesting that when time came for opponents to speak, no one from Lakeland did. As for Senator Dockery, you have your opinion and I have mine: she’s an embarassment.

  2. I, too, watched the hearing. I found it interesting that when time came for opponents to speak, no one from Lakeland did. As for Senator Dockery, you have your opinion and I have mine: she’s an embarassment.

  3. Bob: Point blank. Yes or No. Do you support taking the freight traffic your city is causing? And do you support the state paying for the rerouting?

  4. Bob: Point blank. Yes or No. Do you support taking the freight traffic your city is causing? And do you support the state paying for the rerouting?

  5. I don’t consider four extra trains to be a big deal.

    However, if the City of Lakeland is concerned, I would support the state paying for the rerouting.

  6. I don’t consider four extra trains to be a big deal.

    However, if the City of Lakeland is concerned, I would support the state paying for the rerouting.

  7. Was that a yes on the first question? I couldn’t tell. If so, you should encourage your city leaders to follow your example.

    And by the way, even DOT acknowledges it’s more than four over the next dcade or so with no effective limit for future growth. It would be helpful in arguing this if you would at least acknowledge basic facts. This has never been about numbers; it’s about longterm freight patterns. And of course, I’ve pointed that out about 300 times, which you should know if you read often.

  8. Was that a yes on the first question? I couldn’t tell. If so, you should encourage your city leaders to follow your example.

    And by the way, even DOT acknowledges it’s more than four over the next dcade or so with no effective limit for future growth. It would be helpful in arguing this if you would at least acknowledge basic facts. This has never been about numbers; it’s about longterm freight patterns. And of course, I’ve pointed that out about 300 times, which you should know if you read often.

  9. Are the Lakeland officials ready to concede that they are not dealing with honorable people on this issue and stand up and fight for Lakeland and the people who elected them? (Note to Gow F. & Jim V., this may come up during your campaigns for mayor.)

  10. Are the Lakeland officials ready to concede that they are not dealing with honorable people on this issue and stand up and fight for Lakeland and the people who elected them? (Note to Gow F. & Jim V., this may come up during your campaigns for mayor.)

  11. So if somebody disagrees with you, you attack them? What are you? Some kind of bully? You think that people will kow-tow to you just because you try to push them around? That approach just doesn’t work.

    You can criticize me all you but you can’t ignore the basic facts: According to the Rail Traffic Evaluation Study, which is available at http://www.fdotrailtrafficevaluationstudy.com, freight traffic in downtown Lakeland will increase by FOUR trains by 2010/2011 and SEVEN trains by 2030. That’s not a spin. That’s not misleading. That’s what the study states.

    And, by the way, every one of the extra trains will pass within 10 blocks of my house in Winter Haven and use the same railroad crossing I use every day. Unlike downtown Lakeland, I can’t go a couple of blocks and use an overpass or underpass to avoid the train. I’m stuck.

    Am I whining because I might get stuck by a train? No!!! This county needs the jobs the railyard and adjacent business park will bring and I’m all for it, no matter what the sacrifice is to me.

  12. So if somebody disagrees with you, you attack them? What are you? Some kind of bully? You think that people will kow-tow to you just because you try to push them around? That approach just doesn’t work.

    You can criticize me all you but you can’t ignore the basic facts: According to the Rail Traffic Evaluation Study, which is available at http://www.fdotrailtrafficevaluationstudy.com, freight traffic in downtown Lakeland will increase by FOUR trains by 2010/2011 and SEVEN trains by 2030. That’s not a spin. That’s not misleading. That’s what the study states.

    And, by the way, every one of the extra trains will pass within 10 blocks of my house in Winter Haven and use the same railroad crossing I use every day. Unlike downtown Lakeland, I can’t go a couple of blocks and use an overpass or underpass to avoid the train. I’m stuck.

    Am I whining because I might get stuck by a train? No!!! This county needs the jobs the railyard and adjacent business park will bring and I’m all for it, no matter what the sacrifice is to me.

  13. Maybe I can’t hear myself. Am I being the jerk here? I’m asking the onlookers, if there are any. Some objective input would be welcome.

    I thought I was just asking for the answer to a question, which hasn’t come. I will let you kowtow me if it makes you feel better because clearly I’ve upset you, and it’s not clear to me this is useful. You win. We are whiny and uninformed over here. Enjoy your hub.

  14. Maybe I can’t hear myself. Am I being the jerk here? I’m asking the onlookers, if there are any. Some objective input would be welcome.

    I thought I was just asking for the answer to a question, which hasn’t come. I will let you kowtow me if it makes you feel better because clearly I’ve upset you, and it’s not clear to me this is useful. You win. We are whiny and uninformed over here. Enjoy your hub.

  15. Poor little Billy. Has trouble arguing with facts. Do you take Ambien or Valium?

  16. Poor little Billy. Has trouble arguing with facts. Do you take Ambien or Valium?

  17. Bob, this isn’t the kind of forum where such comments are welcome.

    Please tell me where you saw an attack, because I don’t see it.

    The comments about the drugs are merely ad hominem.

  18. Bob, this isn’t the kind of forum where such comments are welcome.

    Please tell me where you saw an attack, because I don’t see it.

    The comments about the drugs are merely ad hominem.

  19. Billy, As we all know, Bob has no credibility. He resorts to sarcasm, the tool of the coward, every time someone points out the facts of the freight deal. The proponents of the WH ILC always say that the ILC will come even if the commuter rail bill fails. Then tell me, why do they get so bent out of shape everytime someone reports on the realities of the bad deal? Between you and me, the shrillness in his voice betrays that he is worried. J.D. Alexancer and CSX continues ignore and disrespect the residents of Sundance Ranch Estates for the irresponsible choice of sites for their heavy industrial ILC. And, for any of you who may believe that Sundance has been made offers and are just being greedy, It’s a lie. They are using that lie to as you said “string things out”. And why isn’t J.D. Alexander working as hard for his constituents Sundance as Senator Dockery is for Lakeland? It is because he knows that if the commuter rail bill fails, CSX won’t get their much needed Brinks truck of money, and neither will he. The commuter rail bill is a money maker for him and he is not going to let the needs of pesky constituents get in his way.

  20. Billy, As we all know, Bob has no credibility. He resorts to sarcasm, the tool of the coward, every time someone points out the facts of the freight deal. The proponents of the WH ILC always say that the ILC will come even if the commuter rail bill fails. Then tell me, why do they get so bent out of shape everytime someone reports on the realities of the bad deal? Between you and me, the shrillness in his voice betrays that he is worried. J.D. Alexancer and CSX continues ignore and disrespect the residents of Sundance Ranch Estates for the irresponsible choice of sites for their heavy industrial ILC. And, for any of you who may believe that Sundance has been made offers and are just being greedy, It’s a lie. They are using that lie to as you said “string things out”. And why isn’t J.D. Alexander working as hard for his constituents Sundance as Senator Dockery is for Lakeland? It is because he knows that if the commuter rail bill fails, CSX won’t get their much needed Brinks truck of money, and neither will he. The commuter rail bill is a money maker for him and he is not going to let the needs of pesky constituents get in his way.

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