Several years ago Charlotte County identified a pressing need to substantially increase the capacity of the intersection of Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41), Burnt Store Road and Jones Loop Road. The primary, but not only, consideration was the growth being experienced and expected along each of these thoroughfares and the need for expanded hurricane evacuation routes. The intersection also includes a grade crossing for the Seminole Gulf Railway, so the magnitude of the project was significant and expensive.
A dispute arose between the county and railroad as to how the costs would be shared. The railroad indicated that the grade crossing and associated signaling would be the largest that it had ever undertaken. Another siding track was to be added to accommodate a future planned off-loading facility adjacent to Jones Loop Road. This was needed because any rail freight for the area had to be off-loaded in Fort Myers and brought in by truck, a not insignificant cost to retailers such as Home Depot and many others.
The intersection project was held up for months and finally the railroad set a date by which it would drop out of the project.
The Curmudgeon Club members became aware of the issues and two weeks before the drop-dead date invited a now-retired vice-president of the railroad and county officials to attend our meeting. We found that the bone of contention was who was to pay for the adjacent siding track that was to cross Jones Loop Road. It became apparent to us that there was a huge misunderstanding by the county that was under the impression the railroad expected the county to pay for the siding.
We found this was not the case – the railroad planned to pick up their siding cost all along. We (the club) asked the railroad’s vice-president to extend their deadline by another month to allow the county to finally get its ducks in line.
They finally kissed and made up and project proceeded without further glitches and we are all using the resultant intersection.
This dissertation is relevant because of the off-loading facility being planned off U.S. 17 adjacent to a residential neighborhood when a plan was established several years ago to do the same thing at Jones Loop and Burnt Store Roads. The railroad siding is there, access to I-75, U.S. 41 and Burnt Store Roads is there. Undeveloped, non-residential space is there.
Lots of money was spent on the siding. We have yet to hear why the railroad’s original plan is not being followed through. I suspect that the residents close to the U.S. 17 are not even aware of the planned Jones Loop Road facility!