Polk County freight train hub under construction; expected to create 8,000 jobs

Logistics center will open in April 2014

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - After seven years of planning and government approval, the construction of a freight train "super highway" is now underway in Polk County.

Thursday morning, Governor Rick Scott joined CSX and Winter Haven officials for a ceremonial groundbreaking for a railroad shipping hub that is expected to create thousands of jobs.

When complete in early 2014, it's expected to transform the shipping industry in Florida.

"This is a significant opportunity for our state, it will have a long term impact," said. Gov. Rick Scott after the ceremony.  "It'll get trucks off our highways, but the most important thing is it will get jobs going in our state."

Officials expect the project, called an Intermodal Logistics Center, to create more than 8,000 jobs after manufacturers and warehouses move in.

Once it's fully operational, CSX says people will see more trains in and around Polk County. That's a big piece of what made this a controversial project in the first place.

Eldon Tipper lives right across from the site.

He frequently climbs up a tree to keep an eye on the construction, but his concern isn't over what he sees, it's what he hears.

"They should not plot this down right in the middle of a residential area," he said.

With more trains, comes more noise and disruptions.

Michael Ward, CEO of CSX, told reporters he expects the number of trains to increase to about 20 a day. Right now there are about 16 trains that pass every day.

"We think the increase in train traffic will be relatively modest," he said.

Critics of the project disagree, saying they expect a traffic nightmare.

"If they do go through a city like Lakeland at 15 miles per hour, they're going to have a divided city," Tipper said. "One on one side, one on the other."

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