Chamber members and transit leaders filled the Chamber’s Board Room to listen about the possibility of commuter rail in the Tampa Bay region by purchasing the CSX line that winds across Pasco County, Hillsborough County and Pinellas County. The Vice President of CSX, Bob O’Malley not only discussed the routes, but also answered questions from members about the public financing of purchasing the tracks, ownership of the tracks and the mode of mass transit on the lines.
As with Tri-Rail and SunRail, CSX must retain exclusive and perpetual freight rights to serve freight customers on the lines. The passenger system must be compatible with CSX freight operation. Light rail cannot operate on or adjacent to CSX rail lines. As with Tri-Rail and SunRail, FDOT must be involved. This is especially crucial with single-county MPOs and transit agencies in the Tampa Bay region. The thinking is based on past track purchases is that 50% of funding will come from the US Department of Transportation. 25% from the FL Department of Transportation and 25% of the local transit authorities. The state would hopefully pay for the first seven years of the operations and then the local transit authorities or counties would pay for operations. Any revenue received from CSX leasing back the lines for freight and ridership would help offset a portion of the operation costs. For more information on the CSX presentation, click here.