Port Canaveral commissioners voted 5-0 today to withdraw a proposal for the port to construct a cargo rail line from the port to the mainland from consideration by the federal Surface Transportation Board (STB), the port announced on Wednesday.
According to Canaveral Port Authority CEO and Port Director John Murray, the port’s 30-year strategic master plan, which was under development the last two years, “identifies no current or projected economic data that presents a compelling case for the port to pursue rail. We need to do the right things from a business perspective for our long-term success.”
“We also have the challenges of competing ports to the north and south, and logistical challenges of moving containerized cargo outside of Florida on a rail network, and the costs associated with that,” said Murray.
The rail plan was a source of controversy in the community. Local residents were against the project as one proposed route included building new tracks over the Banana River and residents feared a potential negative environmental impact. A more recent port proposal to run the rail line through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was less controversial, but also presented various logistical issues, according to local media source Florida Today.
Cargo rail from the port had been under active consideration since 2014, but Murray advocated the use of “limited resources” for “bulkhead space for ships” and other land projects. “Future demand for land and bulkhead is greater than what is currently available,” including the accommodation of “core business customers,” said Murray, referring to cruise lines.
Port Commissioner Jerry Allender and Port Authority Vice Chair Micah Loyd agreed with Murray, stating that while port’s initial decision to pursue a cargo rail route wasn’t “a bad decision in the beginning,” the decision to drop the project now is the right one, according to Florida Today. Loyd said the numbers aren’t there to support a cargo rail line, and, additionally, “the community is against it, so I think this falls right in line with where we need to be,” in dropping the rail plan.
“It is wise that we recognize that circumstances have changed, and the other opportunities are there, and we need to pursue them,” Allender said. “That is why it is important, I think, at this stage to set it aside, and not go forward at all. Things have changed, so we have to change with the time, and recognize that, and go forward with what our opportunities are now. It’s time to move on with the other economic opportunities that we have.”
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