• Lake County railroad project nearly complete


    LAKE COUNTY, Fla. - Train traffic is about to pick up across Lake County as work to law 20 miles of new railroad track is nearly complete.

    The Florida Central Railroad tracks run from Eustis to Apopka, allowing for heavier, faster freight trains and in the future, passenger trains.

    But as Channel 9's Berndt Petersen learned, the cost doesn’t sit well with some residents.

    Construction crews continue to upgrade the track that has some sections that are nearly 90 years old.

    So far, crews have replaced 27,000 ties. A mountain of old ties are stacked 15 feet high and 60 yards long along US-441 in the community of Plymouth. 

    "Yeah, it's going to open up a lot of opportunities," said Pete Petree of FCR. "We'll be able to get bigger trains, heavier cars and open up lines that have been out of service for years."

    But the $18 million project was not without its critics, some of whom complained that most of the funding was public money.

    "It was not the owner for the tracks coming to the city of Tavares or anybody asking to upgrade the tracks," said Tavares administrator John Drury.

    In fact, Drury said Tavares came up with the plan, sold the feds and the state on it and secured $14 million in grants. 

    Six cities and the railroad were then convinced to cover the rest of the cost. 

    Drury said freight train traffic through Lake County is about to pick up.

    "When fuel prices go up, trucks become less competitive and rail takes over," he said.

    Some sections of the old track were so bad that freight trains had to limit speeds to 10 mph, officials said. The new tracks can handle speeds of up to 45mph.

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    Lake County railroad project nearly complete