JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – If you have driven in different parts of Jacksonville, chances are you have been stuck waiting for a train to pass.
A new plan hopes to solve the problem of trains slowing down or even stopping on tracks.
Melissa Gregory lives in San Marco and never knows how long she will have to wait for a train to cross.
“Fifteen minutes easily, if not more,” she said of her experience. “It just kind of depends. It can definitely be an inconvenience, especially if you’re in a hurry or on your way trying to get to a meeting or a doctor’s appointment.”
City Councilman Matt Carlucci is co-sponsoring a project to prevent trains from stalling or even stopping on the tracks around Jacksonville.
A CSX spokesperson says the railroad project stems from a Federal Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Program (CRISI) grant from the Federal Railroad Administration, which is proposed in 2018 and awarded to FDOT in 2019.
“There have been times when ambulances were trying to get to Baptist [Health Hospital in Downtown Jacksonville] and end up getting stuck where a train stalled,” Carlucci said. “Time is of the essence when someone is in an ambulance.”
The project includes building more tracks at the main CSX railyard for trains to move and stack there. Additional components include signal, crossing and bridge improvements from the FEC’s Bowden Yard to the FEC’s bridge.
According to CSX, there will also be track construction north of the FEC bridge along with signal and track modifications between the FEC bridge and CSX Moncrief yard.
That would free up traffic in places like Hendricks Avenue or San Marco Boulevard.
“As much as if I’ve heard the dogs barking, I’ve heard the cars honking out here,” said Tyler Hott, who is a day care attendant at Josie’s Place Pet Spa on Hendricks Avenue.
A few blocks away, Justin Scott at V Pizza says the business sees the trains’ effects every day.
“People try to come in and it stops the flow of people coming in,” Scott said when a train causes a delay. “When the train does go by, there’s a massive influx of people coming in and it’s a little hard to handle sometimes.”
Carlucci said the project will cost around $980,000. Most of that money will come from the Federal Railroad Administration and a grant to the Department of Transportation.
“I think it’s good news for Jacksonville and a good thing for our quality of life,” he said.
The project’s partners include FDOT, Florida East Coast Railway, Jacksonville Transportation Authority and the City of Jacksonville.
There is no firm timeframe of when the work will be completed.