Florida Buying Track Segment from CSX

Florida will pay CSX Transportation $432 million for a 61-mile track segment after Gov. Charlie Crist on Dec. 16 signed into law a measure to boost passenger rail operations.

The state legislature passed its bill last week, and Jacksonville, Fla.-based CSX called it an "important investment in the future of our home state." The bill was also needed, advocates said, to help position the state to win federal grants under the federal stimulus account for high-speed passenger rail projects.

Besides approving the line purchase from CSX, one of the two largest freight railroads in the eastern United States, the new Florida law includes an insurance agreement that shields CSX from some liability in the event its trains wreck on tracks that will share freight and passenger operations.

An earlier attempt to get a liability exemption failed in the legislature, prompting CSX at that time to back away from a plan to sell off the trackage that Florida would use for the SunRail commuter line. The plan involves CSX switching some freight operations to another line in Florida and investing to improve those tracks.

CSX said the investment this law authorizes "will have tremendous benefits for Florida's economy by creating jobs and increasing the state's economic competitiveness by moving both passengers and freight more effectively."

- John D. Boyd.