Getting Goods Faster to Florida’s 21 Million Residents

Florida’s Gateway provides direct access to CSX’s Winter Haven Intermodal – and more importantly, connectivity to a staggering 18 million people within 200 miles. That’s right: with nearly 20.7 million residents, Florida ranks third in U.S. population (behind California and Texas), and 1,000 people per day make Florida their home.

So what was critical in the planning and development of this key project? I.CON: Impact Projects attendees dived in to a case study of Florida’s Gateway at NAIOP’s recent conference.

Getting goods shipped at a faster, repeatable rate at a lower cost with reduced environmental impact was the impetus behind the project, which was envisioned to have a high-tech, clean design with superior connectivity. A tall order, but one that the project team – Barrie Bloom, senior vice president GEM Realty Capital; Carl Warren, director of industrial development, East CSX Transportation; and Mark Levy, executive managing director, JLL; knew was achievable.

Situated on nearly 933 acres, the project is planned to include 8 million square feet of Class A Industrial development with direct CSX rail access. On-site use of hostler trucks allows for quick and efficient transport of trailers to the intermodal center, with high-speed rail access to multiple ports and cities and easy access to highways and thoroughfares.

With transportation costs rising, highway congestion increasing and high fuel prices – plus huge driver turnover coupled with rising insurance costs – rail is the viable transportation alternative. It also opens the door to international trade, as imported goods from Asia arrive in Florida via the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach (by rail to Atlanta via BNSF and rail to Winter Haven via CSX) and the Port of Savannah (by truck or CSX rail to Winter Haven).

Florida’s Gateway is also lowering costs in its home state, where 12.6 billion tons of goods were moved by truck and multimodal rail between Central Florida and the lower 48 states in 2015. Central Florida has a significant inbound to outbound imbalance for both truck and intermodal rail, and the target commodities are non-bulk types of cargo that are hauled by truck from distances to and from Orlando that are at least 500 miles away. This 500-mile segment is where intermodal rail is generally cheaper than trucks, and goods coming from outside Florida can be transported more cheaply by rail to Winter Haven and distributed throughout the state by truck.

Beyond easing shipping, Florida’s Gateway is bringing tremendous economic benefits to the state. The economic output (costs of the goods and services) during construction was $112 million and created nearly 1,400 jobs during years one and two. Over the 10-year projected build-out, the project should generate an additional $10.6 billion in output, $900 million in tax revenues and 8,500 ongoing jobs.

This new central distribution point in Florida is connecting the state’s vast population to global trade lanes. Connectivity with the Port of Savannah, which maintains on dock rail and the fastest rail transit times in the South Atlantic, is on the agenda, along with associated warehousing, distribution and service facilities in the future plans for Florida’s Gateway.

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