The “David” in this David & Goliath story is not Loren Data. It is the tiny village of St. Lucie, Florida. If it comes to a fight between All Aboard Florida and St. Lucie Village, don’t bet against the village. The tiny municipality north of Fort Pierce has a history of taking on powerful interests and winning. St. Lucie Village – population 599 – is nestled between the Indian River Lagoon and U.S. 1. It is mostly residential. Running down the middle is a set of Florida East Coast Railway tracks. The railway would like to add two more sets of tracks to accommodate All Aboard Florida, an affiliate of the railway, which wants to operate a high-speed passenger service between Miami and Orlando. Sixteen trains in each direction every day. Village residents are against the triple tracks. At public meetings, they said they fear emergency services would not have easy access to homes east of the tracks. St. Lucie Village is the oldest continuously occupied place in St. Lucie County, dating back to the mid-1800s. But it was not incorporated until 1961 — so that residents could prevent construction of a steel mill in their midst. In the 1990s, the village joined others to block a plan to expand the nearby St. Lucie International Airport. Any big Goliath about to face this little David should take note. Paul Janensch, Radio 88.9 FM, WQCS.ORG.
With infectious enthusiasm, Mike Reininger, president and chief development officer for All Aboard Florida, grabbed the microphone to whoop: “This is happening — now!”
This being the train-of-trains that will whisk passengers from Miami to Orlando in three hours, with interim stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
But All Aboard Florida isn’t a “done deal” and can’t “happen” until the financing is in place to restore double tracking to the FEC corridor and build an extension between Cocoa and Orlando. The financial linchpin to making things happen is a $1.5-billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement loan the company is seeking from the Federal Railroad Administration.
Trying to block the loan are well organized opponents in Florida’s politically conservative Treasure Coast and Space Coast, who are airing TV commercials depicting “Big Choo-Choo” as a house-shaking, dish-rattling behemoth with yellow eyes, an evil squint and bared steel-teeth. The NIMBY (not in my backyard) factor is clear. But it’s not the only political driver. There’s also an abhorrence of “big government” and lingering rancor over “waste,” “bail-outs,” and failed “public-private partnerships.”
RAILEX OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE
Railex, which operates weekly unit trains that offer express five-day coast-to-coast service, recently shipped its 1,000th eastbound train and is celebrating its seventh year in business, according to Paul Esposito, executive vice president of network planning and government relations.
Esposito said that 1,000 trains is the equivalent of 142,000 truckloads, and the use of Railex’s service helped save over 63 million gallons of diesel fuel and prevented more than 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere.
“It’s a tremendous savings on the environment,” he told The Produce News.
Esposito and other Railex officials were on hand at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention, here, to promote the planned opening of its new facility in Jacksonville, FL, which is expected to be operational by May or June.
Railex identified the location in Jacksonville in September 2012, said Esposito, and the company has been going through the permitting and scheduling process for the past year, he said.
“It’s really an ideal location,” said Esposito. “It is on Phillips Avenue at the junction of FEC Railroad, which provides easy accessibility and gives us a rail option to South Florida as well as increases our distribution radius.”
Railex began operating in 2006 with service between its headquarters in the Albany, NY, area and a facility in Wallula, WA. In 2008, it added a facility in Delano, CA. The Jacksonville facility is its fourth and will facilitate express shipments to all major Southeast markets, including Atlanta and Miami.
Each of the four facilities offers refrigerated storage space with distinct custom temperature zones that enables it to properly handle the various perishable products, such as produce, seafood, wine, nursery and frozen items.