If Rep. John Mica’s prediction about the Winter Haven Rail Intermodal Terminal comes true it will be huge for the area.
Speaking during Thursday’s ceremonial ground breaking for the state-of-the-art terminal, Mica said, “It is going to have the biggest impact since they brought the orange tree to Polk County.”
Mica was joined by many elected officials, including Gov. Rick Scott, and executives from several Florida-based companies at the massive site located on Pollard Road off of State Road 60.
“This is about more than trains,” said Winter Haven Mayor J.P. Powell. “It’s about putting people to work; it’s about growth.”
According to an economic impact study conducted by HDR Engineering, construction of the Evansville Western Railway terminal is projected to create up to 8,500 annual jobs with a total annual payroll of $282.2 million and generate more than $10 billion in economic development over a 10-year period and add $900 million in state and federal tax revenue.
The rail terminal will be built and operated by Evansville Western, an affiliate of Jacksonville-based CSX Transportation. The terminal will serve CSX’s growing intermodal business and allow CSX to serve customers in Orlando, Tampa and South Florida, according to a press release.
The terminal will be built on 318 acres and will include five 3,000-foot loading tracks and two 10,000-foot arrival and departure tracks. The tracks will be spanned by three electric Rail-Mounted Gantry cranes that will unload and load trains. The use of electric cranes instead of diesel-powered cranes will help reduce noise and emissions.
The terminal is adjacent to 930 acres that CSX has an option to purchase from the city of Winter Haven, the press release stated. Together, the two properties will form the Winter Haven Integrated Logistics Center.
Approximately 110 people will be needed to operate the terminal on 24/7 basis, CSX spokesman Gary Sease said. Some will probably be people that are already working for CSX or Evansville Western.
“It’s a big deal because intermodal and containerized freight is really growing and is going to continue to grow,” Sease said. “The very basic reason for that is that trucks have the flexibility to move goods from a manufacturer’s dock to the rail terminal, place it on a train and then we can take it for the long haul – 600, 800 miles – with incredible fuel efficiency.
“The truck on the other end can deliver it right to the receiver’s dock,” he added. “Like wise when containers come in from overseas. In our global market place a lot of manufacturing is taking place in Asia. Those containers of goods can come in and take a train to a distribution center and then trucks can deliver from there. Trucks and trains that used to be very very tough competitors with each other are now finding a lot of ways to work together to the benefit of both industries.”
Construction of the Evansville Western terminal will create an estimated 200 construction jobs. Its contractors have partnered with Polk Works to identify qualified local suppliers and subcontractors to provide jobs and supplier opportunities.
Gov. Scott said unemployment in Florida has dropped faster than any other state in the country in the last two years, but, “We still have 800,000 people out of work.
“Days like this and all the jobs that will be created here I’m very appreciative of everybody involved,” he said.
Florida could be the number one place in the United States for trade, the governor said, adding that trade markets around the world are growing.
From 2010 to 2011 trade worldwide in Florida grew by 18 percent. He noted that $149 billion in goods flowed through the state during that period.
Scott talked about the expansion of the Panama Canal. The volume of freight moving through the Panama Canal will double by 2025, he said.
“That means Florida will capture more Asian and Latin American trade,” the governor said. “Today Florida handles about 15 to 20 percent of Panama Canal traffic. It’s only logical that we will see more commerce when we see that project finished in 2014.”
Scott highlighted several Florida-based companies that have benefited from the construction of the rail terminal.
“One thing that is great about this is that there are a lot of local businesses that are going to do well,” he said.
Michael Ward, president, chairman and CEO of CSX, said the project is on schedule and the terminal is expected to be operational by May 2014.
There has been concern about the heavy truck traffic that is anticipated for (U.S.) 27 and (S.R.) 60. The answer to that is the proposed Central Polk Parkway.
Although still several years away from construction, the beginning phase of design is under way for the 45-mile road.
According to the Florida Department of Transportation, a proposed interchange for the Parkway could be built just west of Pollard Road.
DOT Secretary Ananth Prasad attended the ground-breaking event.
Prasad said he would like to see trucks get off U.S. 27. He would prefer they use the Florida Turnpike and noted that he is working with a trucking association on that issue.