Thanks to Bob O’Malley, CSX’s sort of jack-of-all-PR-trades for Florida, for responding to my post pointing out how much better a deal the leftists in Massachusetts worked out with CSX than the free market conservatives here in Florida did for very similar reorganizations of freight and passenger rail.
As you’ll see, Bob says I’m “incorrect” and “not telling the whole truth.” Here are the key parts of his comment:
Your statements about our compensation for the sale of 61 miles of our A Line are incorrect. The correct amount is $432 million, of which we are reinvesting the entire amount in Florida’s freight infrastructure. This reinvestment will improve our ability to deliver freight to Florida businesses and consumers. (FYI – the new issue of Florida Trend has an important article about how Florida stands to prosper from changing global trade flows: http://floridatrend.com/article.asp?aID=52533)
As for Massachusetts, the $100 million was only a portion of the transaction – so you are not telling the whole truth.
I would be happy to meet with you again at Black & Brew to discuss freight issues and how we will play an important role in the economic recovery of our home state. And as I’ve mentioned to Julie, I would be willing to speak at a DLP meeting or to any other community group in Lakeland.
OK, the first part of that is silly, and Bob knows it. He’s a pretty nice guy, and really, it’s beneath him. Here’s what I actually wrote:
With the Florida CSX deal, the state is paying CSX about $600-$700 million overall in cash and Florida freight system improvements for ownership of 61 miles of lines through the Orlando area. (It’s about $450 million if you don’t count the money for overpass construction in north central Florida, which I suppose one could say isn’t directly for CSX’s benefit, even though it is.) Remember, that money includes $23 million for “relocation” of the Taft rail yard to the Winter Haven rail yard.
I even accounted for the fact that CSX doesn’t include the overpass improvements in the cost of the deal, even though the state always did. In most dialects of English, “about 450” would equate pretty closely to “432.” However, I fully stipulate that “432” is a more precise figure than “about 450,” which is why I used “about.” Sigh.
Now, moving on to Massachusetts. That state and CSX refer to their deal as a $100 million deal for purchase of tracks between Worcester and Framingham and for some additional track around Boston. There is some additional bridge-building work, which sounds a lot like overpass work, that sounds like it might be outside the scope of the $100 million. The total mileage purchased appears to be 53 miles, not just the 23 I cited in my original post.
A source I trust who knows rail very well puts the total, counting the bridge/overpass work at $125 million. But I can’t independently verify that figure.
By contrast, Florida has a $649 million plan, counting overpasses, to purchase 61 miles.
So let’s put those next to each other:
Florida: $649 million, 61 miles, $10.6 million per mile
Mass: $125 million, 53 miles, $2.3 million per mile
I think those numbers speak for themselves. But if Bob O’Malley wants to provide better numbers, which he can reasonably document, I’ll happily recalculate.
I also recommend the Florida Trend article that Bob referenced that my friend Cynthia Barnett wrote. I actually see it as a pretty good anatomy of a shipping construction bubble in the making. But I guess we’ll all see.
And as far as meeting in Black and Brew again, I certainly enjoyed that conversation. And I’d welcome the chance to hang out socially with Bob and Lisa. Like I said, he’s a nice guy. However, I think these types of discussions best occur in public where others can judge them.
Editor’s note: Billy Townsend is currently navigating winding roads outside of Lakeland. The column above was delivered to Lakeland Local on February 27th.