Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Central Florida Sun Rail "In Trouble"

A Railroad Net member who resides in Ocala (Marion County) FL brought this Op-Ed piece to the attention of that community. I believe it deserves review over here at Ellis' site:

Staff reportage - Ocala Star Banner:


Brief passage:
In all, the SunRail system would cost state, local and federal taxpayers more than $2 billion over 30 years. But CSX officials have insisted that they be held harmless from any legal damages, beyond their own employees and equipment, arising from any accidents on the line that would be shared by SunRail and CSX.

CSX and DOT officials say the "no fault" agreement is necessary because the company would not be facing the risk of increased legal damages unless it allowed the commuter train system to operate.

Sen. Lee Constantine, R-Altamonte Springs, is the chief backer of SB 1212. "Why would you sell something to someone at the appraised value and open yourself potentially to more liability?" Constantine said of the need to give CSX the "no fault" protection.

But the plan's primary opponent - Sen. Paula Dockery, R-Lakeland - said taxpayers should not be on the hook for damages caused by CSX employees. And she said the current deal would leave the state liable for accidents involving trespassers and traffic that is not related to the SunRail system.


Brief passage:
SunRail cheerleader Sen. Lee Cosntantine, R-Altamonte Springs, has begun touting the job creation potential of SunRail, claiming the project would create 13,000 jobs early on. What he fails to add is that SunRail, if built, if taxpayers pony up $2 billion-plus, will only serve about 14,500 riders a day in 2030. That is in 20 years. That is 14,500 in a metropolitan area projected to have 3.5 million people.

Cost per rider: $180,000.

Like we said, opposing the CSX-SunRail project is an easy call. It's a bad deal for Floridians and it's an even worse deal for Marion Countians.

As noted in both the news article and Opinion piece , the CSX requirement to be held harmless for anything that happens on lines to be acquired by a public agency for this rail system simply seems unreasonable, if not unconscionable.

"Heads you win, Tails I loose" seems more like it.


  1. There is no question that operation of passenger trains over its routes, or increased frequency/speed for routes where passenger trains already operate constitutes increased risk exposure for CSX and other freight carriers. However, holding the railroad harmless for this risk is bad public policy since it promotes recklessness on the part of the host railroad.

    The risks associated with operating passenger trains can be managed. They can be analyzed and quantified. They can be reduced and they can be financed through purchase of insurance or self-insurance. It is reasonable for CSX to be compensated by passenger operating agencies for assuming additional risk. However, this compensation assessed in a transparent manner that reflects the judgment and recommendations of independent risk management professionals and not the whims of its management.

  2. Ellis, if a Sun Rail or other public agency's train whacks a vehicle at an X-ing, regardless of fault, that is a civil litigation matter to be addressed between the injured motorist and the agency.

    However, should a CSX freight train, operating over a line conveyed to a public agency, whack a vehicle, again, regardless of fault, the litigants should be CSX and the injured party.

    Where freight trains are detoured over another carrier's line, both the operator and owner can find themselves as defendants in civil litigation arising from a tort. Therefore, CSX's position in this matter, if in fact it is their position and not one fostered on them by the Local interests that do not want this rail service to begin (Lakeland FL), is without any kind of historical precedent.

  3. Has anybody ever checked out Ri-Rail vs CSX in south florida as to accidents? The only accident was a near miss by AMTRAK and Tri-rail. Had the accident happened it would have been Amtraks fault. You can find that info on tri rails web site.Trains are they way to go in the future not cars not hybrids (maybe in 10 or more years). Central fla. has been screwed now manily because of Paula Dockery wanting to get even with Jeb Bush for killing her ole mans train.I hpoe CSX floods Lakeland with freight trains now cause you know what there won't be a thing sh can do to stop them.

  4. Every commuter rail authority and route recently started in the country operates under no fault. Without no fault, there is zero reason for a freight railroad to grant the public access to its right of way for the obvious reason stated.

    Without the granting of the access, the liability would never have been possible to the grantor because the liabilities arising from a commuter rail accident could not happen. Therefore the grantee - the commuter rail agency and its creator the state - should pay for the liability of the grantor as part of the costs of the access to the grantor's property.

  5. Mr Anonymous, self-indemnification, or "no-fault" in the "language of the street", is the overriding doctrine between Amtrak and the Class I carriers that handle ("host") their trains. But in this instance, CSX wants even more. They want to be held harmless from any liability, even if, say, their own freight train collides with another of their freight train's operating over the DeLand-Poinciana segment of the A-Line (official CSXese I have learned) to be transferred to the public sector. Obviously, in a hypothetical incident paralleling the "almost-Magnonia' you note between Tri-Rail and Amtrak, each party, Sun Rail and CSX, would be responsible for their own torts. But analogous to that in our instant discussion, is what if a CSX freight train collided with an under-insured private sector bus (parlez vous "pigeon' Francais?)? Should the public agency operating Sun Rail be on tap for that? "Pussy" seems to think so; I for one, as a guest here at Mr. Simon's blog, do not