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Feds Award Grant To Ease San Marco Train Delays

Jessica Palombo
A train stops on the tracks, blocking the Hendricks Avenue railroad crossing, in December of 2018.

The freight trains that block traffic for minutes or hours when they roll through Jacksonville’s San Marco neighborhood and downtown are such a constant irritant that a parody account in which “San Marco Train” taunts motorists has 1,600 followers on Twitter.

The Twitter account is played for laughs, but it taps into the frustration drivers feel when the train horn sounds and there’s no telling whether the delay they face at the crossing will be short or long.

When the state Department of Transportation applied for a $17.6 million federal grant to fix the problem, the application linked to the San Marco Train account to show the human side of the delays that also affect access to medical center services on downtown’s Southbank.

Mayor Lenny Curry announced Friday that the application was successful.

“These investments in freight rail will benefit our neighborhoods,” Curry said.

He said the work will make railroad crossings safer and “alleviate rail-related traffic delays downtown.”

Jacksonville Transportation Authority CEO Nat Ford said the grant is another show of confidence by the U.S. Department of Transportation in Jacksonville.

“Simply put, this project is a long time coming for Jacksonville and for those who live and commute to downtown Jacksonville on a daily basis,” Ford said. “We strongly believe these improvements to busy railroad interchanges near the urban core will enhance safety and mobility in Jacksonville and throughout the state of Florida.”

The federal grant will cover half of the $35.2 million cost for the improvements aimed at eliminating choke points at switching yards that force trains heading north through San Marco and downtown to grind to a halt as they approach the bridge crossing the St. Johns River.

Read the rest of this story, including where the rest of the funding will come from, on WJCT News partner site The Florida Times-Union.