JACKSONVILLE -- A small part of the 158-acre container terminal being built at Dames Point could threaten its anticipated opening in 2008 if CSX Corp. and the Jacksonville Port Authority can't forge agreements regarding a required rail crossing.
The crossing is needed because yet-to-be-built TraPac Boulevard, the road entering the terminal, must cross a CSX-owned rail spur that serves a customer near the terminal and goes through the terminal's site.
The $220 million project is being built for and mostly funded by Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd., whose stevedoring subsidiary TraPac Inc. will run the terminal. It has been hailed as among Jacksonville's biggest milestones in economic development because Mitsui plans to use the terminal to initiate Asian service from Jacksonville as well as to service other trade lanes.
Although the road construction contractor has been told to start TraPac Boulevard, it can't handle the rail crossing installation because only CSX can do that. And before CSX can start, the railroad and port authority must sign a construction agreement regarding the design and an operating agreement specifying how the crossing will be operated and who will operate it.
Once those agreements are signed, CSX would have a year to build the crossing, said David Smolder, director of the MOL/TraPac terminal development program. Unless the agreements are executed soon, that construction time frame could put the project's completion into late 2008 or early 2009.
"We've been trying to get this done since January," Smolder said. "This is our biggest challenge that we face right now."
CSX is aware of the urgency and planned to contact the authority promptly "to get details of what they need," spokesman Gary Sease said Aug. 21.
"We're aware of the targeted date of the terminal," Sease said. "We have an incentive to make sure it's open by that date because it will be an important customer base."
Although containers arriving at the terminal will leave by truck, many will be bound for CSX, Smolder said.
"This CSX issue is pivotal," port authority Chairman Tony Nelson said during the board's Aug. 13 meeting. "We need to get it resolved."