Tales of Two Bobs, Part 2: Then Give Me a Number on CSX/Mass., Bob O’M.

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.

GE AC6000CW 635 hauls motors from Cleveland through Worcester 26-08-07I 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.

Creative Commons License photo credit: JohnGreyTurner

6 thoughts on “Tales of Two Bobs, Part 2: Then Give Me a Number on CSX/Mass., Bob O’M.

  1. Billy,

    I agree that this discussion is best held in public. But this blog is not public enough. When people can submit comments using aliases like judofish, donkeyrock and timeforrealchange, the conversation is not honest. Plus, explaining and comparing two separate transactions is better suited for face-to-face dialogue, not a written summary. Nevertheless, I will share the following information to be responsive to your questions. If you need more detail, we should meet in person (not just you and me, but anyone in Lakeland, including donkeyrock.)

    Let me start by acknowledging that you are right: “about 450” is close enough. That was petty on my part.

    As for the “$600-700 million number”, you cannot compare the overpass work in FL and MA. In FL, the overpass work was budgeted to happen regardless of the SunRail transaction. These projects are for the benefit of the communities in which they will be built. No overpasses existed at those locations. In MA, overpasses already exist. The Commonwealth is raising the overpasses to allow for double-stack clearance of freight cars. In this case, we receive the benefit (I would submit that the economy of the Commonwealth also benefits from the improved freight movement, but that’s another topic of discussion.)

    So, I reiterate, our compensation for the sale of our A Line is $432 million (or about $450 million).

    In MA, you are correct about the $100 million direct payment from the Commonwealth. You also noted the double-stack clearance, although your friend’s estimate is low. But the key difference between the two deals is summed up in the paragraphs below from http://transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2009/09/lt-governor-historic-csx-rail-agreement.html .

    “Finally, the city of Boston will see some dramatic changes from this agreement, because it will trigger the redevelopment of Beacon Park Yard- 50 acres along the Charles River in Allston that CSX now uses for its major rail yard. Many of us have driven by it countless times, coming in or out of the city on the MassPike or Storrow Drive. As part of our agreements with CSX, the administration is committed to helping CSX relocate their rail yard operations from Beacon Park, to other sites to the west.

    This is an extraordinary opportunity to redevelop and reuse a strategic track of land that sits between the river and the neighborhood, between Harvard and Boston University.”

    In FL, we are vacating the Taft Yard and the state is taking ownership. In MA, we retained ownership of our Beacon Park Yard easement. The sale of this extremely valuable asset – to a private third party partner – is the key component of the MA transaction. That is why you cannot compare the two deals.

    Again, if you or anyone in Lakeland wants to meet and discuss transportation (especially freight transportation) in a public forum, I would welcome the opportunity.

    Thanks

    Bob

  2. Billy,

    I agree that this discussion is best held in public. But this blog is not public enough. When people can submit comments using aliases like judofish, donkeyrock and timeforrealchange, the conversation is not honest. Plus, explaining and comparing two separate transactions is better suited for face-to-face dialogue, not a written summary. Nevertheless, I will share the following information to be responsive to your questions. If you need more detail, we should meet in person (not just you and me, but anyone in Lakeland, including donkeyrock.)

    Let me start by acknowledging that you are right: “about 450” is close enough. That was petty on my part.

    As for the “$600-700 million number”, you cannot compare the overpass work in FL and MA. In FL, the overpass work was budgeted to happen regardless of the SunRail transaction. These projects are for the benefit of the communities in which they will be built. No overpasses existed at those locations. In MA, overpasses already exist. The Commonwealth is raising the overpasses to allow for double-stack clearance of freight cars. In this case, we receive the benefit (I would submit that the economy of the Commonwealth also benefits from the improved freight movement, but that’s another topic of discussion.)

    So, I reiterate, our compensation for the sale of our A Line is $432 million (or about $450 million).

    In MA, you are correct about the $100 million direct payment from the Commonwealth. You also noted the double-stack clearance, although your friend’s estimate is low. But the key difference between the two deals is summed up in the paragraphs below from http://transportation.blog.state.ma.us/blog/2009/09/lt-governor-historic-csx-rail-agreement.html .

    “Finally, the city of Boston will see some dramatic changes from this agreement, because it will trigger the redevelopment of Beacon Park Yard- 50 acres along the Charles River in Allston that CSX now uses for its major rail yard. Many of us have driven by it countless times, coming in or out of the city on the MassPike or Storrow Drive. As part of our agreements with CSX, the administration is committed to helping CSX relocate their rail yard operations from Beacon Park, to other sites to the west.

    This is an extraordinary opportunity to redevelop and reuse a strategic track of land that sits between the river and the neighborhood, between Harvard and Boston University.”

    In FL, we are vacating the Taft Yard and the state is taking ownership. In MA, we retained ownership of our Beacon Park Yard easement. The sale of this extremely valuable asset – to a private third party partner – is the key component of the MA transaction. That is why you cannot compare the two deals.

    Again, if you or anyone in Lakeland wants to meet and discuss transportation (especially freight transportation) in a public forum, I would welcome the opportunity.

    Thanks

    Bob

  3. Bob,

    First, thanks for your comment.

    You’re not a regular reader or you’d know how I handle comments. “The use of a fake or failed email address means I’ll simply delete your comment as spam. Real names are encouraged, but pen names are allowed” is the key component.

    It’s the nature of the Internet to allow pen names. The difference is that we have verified the pen name to a single user. One who has given a good reason not to go public with his or her real name. I used to only allow real names, but relented in the face of an overwhelming call for pen names.

    The pen names at Lakeland Local are not like you’d find at the vast majority of traditional media forums. In those, anyone can fake an email address or not give one and comment. They can also use multiple accounts to comment. We don’t allow either.

    Also, I have never heard of a corporation spokesperson not wanting to answer a media commentary or editorial because they didn’t know the identities of those who comment.

    You know, and have met, Billy Townsend. If you’ve done your due diligence you know the spotless reputation Lakeland Local has developed as an accurate source of news, and a fair haven for commentary.

    If you do not want to address Townsend in this space, that’s your prerogative. Please don’t use attempt a smoke screen claiming this site is neither public nor honest.

    As I have offered numerous times to numerous officials…you are welcome space to publish an Op-Ed. And we don’t edit for space.

    Chuck Welch
    Lakeland Local and Metro I4 News

  4. Bob,

    First, thanks for your comment.

    You’re not a regular reader or you’d know how I handle comments. “The use of a fake or failed email address means I’ll simply delete your comment as spam. Real names are encouraged, but pen names are allowed” is the key component.

    It’s the nature of the Internet to allow pen names. The difference is that we have verified the pen name to a single user. One who has given a good reason not to go public with his or her real name. I used to only allow real names, but relented in the face of an overwhelming call for pen names.

    The pen names at Lakeland Local are not like you’d find at the vast majority of traditional media forums. In those, anyone can fake an email address or not give one and comment. They can also use multiple accounts to comment. We don’t allow either.

    Also, I have never heard of a corporation spokesperson not wanting to answer a media commentary or editorial because they didn’t know the identities of those who comment.

    You know, and have met, Billy Townsend. If you’ve done your due diligence you know the spotless reputation Lakeland Local has developed as an accurate source of news, and a fair haven for commentary.

    If you do not want to address Townsend in this space, that’s your prerogative. Please don’t use attempt a smoke screen claiming this site is neither public nor honest.

    As I have offered numerous times to numerous officials…you are welcome space to publish an Op-Ed. And we don’t edit for space.

    Chuck Welch
    Lakeland Local and Metro I4 News

  5. Chuck,

    I never stated that Lakeland Local was not honest, and I very much respect Billy. My statements were directed to anonymous comments made on this blog. The “conversation” with those anonymous individuals is not honest, not the forum in which that conversation takes place. Though I believe that direct, face-to-face conversation is more public and more honest, I do not question to value of the forum provided by Lakeland Local.

    I am a regular reader of Lakeland Local and I’ve even publicly stated that every community should have a forum like this.

    Obviously, you are just as sensitive about your good reputation as I am about mine. Mutual trust will take time to build – and clearly we have not yet fully achieved that goal. But I will do my part to continue the dialogue through various forums. There is no smoke screen. In fact, I have participated in multiple public discussions about transportation issues in Polk County and I continue to be willing to meet with any individuals or community group.

    I very much appreciate and respect the opportunity you have provided me to comment.

    Best regards,
    Bob

  6. Chuck,

    I never stated that Lakeland Local was not honest, and I very much respect Billy. My statements were directed to anonymous comments made on this blog. The “conversation” with those anonymous individuals is not honest, not the forum in which that conversation takes place. Though I believe that direct, face-to-face conversation is more public and more honest, I do not question to value of the forum provided by Lakeland Local.

    I am a regular reader of Lakeland Local and I’ve even publicly stated that every community should have a forum like this.

    Obviously, you are just as sensitive about your good reputation as I am about mine. Mutual trust will take time to build – and clearly we have not yet fully achieved that goal. But I will do my part to continue the dialogue through various forums. There is no smoke screen. In fact, I have participated in multiple public discussions about transportation issues in Polk County and I continue to be willing to meet with any individuals or community group.

    I very much appreciate and respect the opportunity you have provided me to comment.

    Best regards,
    Bob

Comments are closed.