Lakeland Wants Rail Freight to Bypass Downtown

CSX freight train
Officials fear the new freight traffic will hurt efforts to revitalize downtown Lakeland.
LAKELAND (2009-12-14) -

Officials in Lakeland are asking state officials to build a new rail spur around the city, now that Orlando's new commuter rail plan will send more freight trains through Lakeland's downtown.

Many Lakeland residents and officials have long opposed Orlando's commuter rail deal with CSX, because the plan re-reroutes Orlando's freight train traffic through Lakeland's historic downtown.

Now that SunRail has passed its last hurdle in the legislature, city leaders are looking for ways to minimize the damage.

Local residents and Lakeland city leaders fear longer and more frequent train traffic will undermine decades of revitalization efforts. They want new tracks to bypass Lakeland.

The city's Mayor-elect, Gow Fields, says the first step is getting the Legislature to fund a $6 million impact study.

"Those of us that stand to be harmed by it, we either get run over by the train, or we better be working on a solution that we can get the Legislature to agree to," Fields said.

Fields says there's talk of expanding commuter rail down I-4 to Lakeland and other towns. Fields says re-routing freight traffic around Lakeland would lay the groundwork for that project, too.

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