Seminole Gulf Railway hopes to be finished with repairs by end of this year

Written by David C. Lester, Editor-in-Chief

FORT MYERS, Fla.– Railway Track & Structures has been covering the horrific damage that occurred when Hurricane Ian struck the Seminole Gulf Railway in 2022.

We’ve covered it in print and digital stories and it was the cover story for the November 2022 issue.

With the exception of the Sarasota Division, which comprises the shortest part of the railroad, most of the remainder, comprised of the Fort Myers Division, was completely wiped out. Not only was service to many customers cut off, the railroad lost a lot of revenue. Moreover, as Robert Fay has told RT&S, when hurricanes strike the railroad’s service territory in Florida, the Seminole Gulf is instrumental in moving building materials to the affected areas. The railroad also moves other commodities which are essential to supporting recovery efforts.

This week, the NBC affiliate in Fort Myers, Fla, WBBH-TV interviewed Fay and discussed the extent of repair work the company has completed. WBBH reported that “The main line, which runs from Arcadia to north Naples, was devastated by the storm. The bridge over the Peace River was destroyed, and the tracks over the Caloosahatchee were wiped clear off the pilings . . .But now, 10 months since then, there’s been major progress. The bridge over the Peace River was rebuilt earlier this year, which allows [the railroad] to get trains down to North Fort Myers.”

While there is still much work to do, the railroad hopes to complete the final portion of the repair finished by the end of 2023.

Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Byron Donalds has introduced a bill called The Short Line Relief Act that would offer financial assistance to short line railroads in the event of emergencies and disasters. This bill was introduced in the previous Congress and the current Congress, but has not made any progress. Fay has told RT&S that purchasing insurance to cover the railroad and bridges is not feasible, so the repairs completed have been paid for by bank loans and the railroads own money. Fay hopes the Short Line Relief Act will eventually become law in order to pay off the debt the road has incurred because of the storm damage.

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