Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CSX Wants 'Quick Fix' to Link Rails; SHIPPING BOOM Ahead Projections Call for Cargo to Triple. RAILS NOT ROADS the Plan Is to Relieve Vehicle Traffic at the Port

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

CSX Wants 'Quick Fix' to Link Rails; SHIPPING BOOM Ahead Projections Call for Cargo to Triple. RAILS NOT ROADS the Plan Is to Relieve Vehicle Traffic at the Port

Article excerpt

Byline: DAVID HUNT

CSX Corp. announced a $40 million plan Monday that it hopes will untangle truck congestion along Jacksonville's Heckscher Drive as the region braces for a shipping boom.

The Jacksonville-based railroad company plans to upgrade tracks and build a link through Nassau County to connect the rails along U.S. 17 to the main line running north toward Waycross, Ga. The idea is to divert cargo containers from the road while also avoiding rail congestion downtown.

Jacksonville Port Authority officials have stressed a need for rail, as projections call for a tripling of cargo in coming years largely because of the TraPac terminal under construction at Dames Point and a pending agreement with Korean shipping company Hanjin.

Millions of dollars will be needed to upgrade the road system - $11.8 million has been committed so far for what authority Executive Director Rick Ferrin called "a quick fix" to ensure nearby roads can handle initial TraPac traffic.

But there are several factors that need to come together before CSX can lay out a definitive plan to put the cargo on rail from TraPac.

The $40 million will come from the state, which is planning to pay CSX $150 million to acquire rights to 61 miles of track in Central Florida for a commuter rail service. But lawmakers are debating how to insure the line.

Clarence W. Gooden, CSX's chief commercial officer, said if the debate kills the deal, CSX still plans to complete the rail upgrades even though the corporate capital budget is planned for the next three years. That raises the question of when the money would be available.

Also, Jacksonville Port Authority is collecting ideas from investors interested in building a loading ground to move containers from ships to trains. Gooden said exactly how CSX will proceed with construction depends on where the loading ground will be established, as well as several pending property purchases.

CSX spokesman Gary Sease said the basic idea is to move the cargo to the A-line, a main route running north toward Waycross.

To do so, a rail connection must be built to the line from the Yulee area, where cargo will initially be directed along the tracks that parallel U. …

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