Port Manatee has reached agreement for Regional Rail LLC to operate its seaport-owned short-line railroad through at least 2036, with options through 2051, advancing extended business opportunities for Manatee County’s rapidly growing seaport.
Under an agreement to take effect Dec. 1, Port Manatee Railroad LLC is to be operated as a subsidiary of Kennett Square, Pennsylvania-based Regional Rail, which already operates seven other U.S. short-line railroads, including three others in Florida, with more than 550 total miles of track.
“Port Manatee, as Central and Southwest Florida’s preferred gateway for global commerce, enthusiastically welcomes this new, mutually beneficial relationship with Regional Rail,” said Reggie Bellamy, chairman of the Manatee County Port Authority, which approved the agreement at its Oct. 21 meeting. “We anticipate enjoying many years of synergistic growth.”
Port Manatee Railroad, which began operation by the port in 1970 – the same year the seaport opened for business – encompasses more than 7 miles of tracks directly connecting with a main line of Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX Transportation. CSX boasts more than 20,000 route miles of railway in 23 states, the District of Columbia and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Port Manatee Railroad operates a pair of energy-efficient diesel-electric locomotives and offers capacity to accommodate 300 railcars.
“Port Manatee is experiencing record growth, including a 53.3 percent rise in containerized cargo trade for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, while reaching an all-time-high in total cargo tonnage,” said Carlos Buqueras, Port Manatee’s executive director. “We envision collaborating with Regional Rail in increasing rail usage for current seaport customers and expanding rail service options to attract new customers and commodities to Port Manatee.”
Al Sauer, president and chief executive officer of Regional Rail, commented, “We are very proud and excited to have been chosen to be the new operator for the rail infrastructure within Port Manatee. This operation is in close proximity to our existing Florida railroads, and we are looking forward to working with Port Manatee and with CSX to strengthen and expand the rail service offerings to existing customers within Port Manatee and to attract new business to the port.”
Besides Port Manatee Railroad, Regional Rail’s Florida operations include Florida Central, Florida Northern and Florida Midland railroads. Beyond Florida, Regional Rail operates Carolina Coastal Railway in North Carolina, Middletown & New Jersey Railroad in New York, Tyburn Railroad in Pennsylvania, and East Penn Railroad in Pennsylvania and Delaware,
Located “Where Tampa Bay Meets the Gulf of Mexico,” Port Manatee is the closest U.S. deepwater seaport to the expanded Panama Canal, with 10 40-foot-draft berths serving container, bulk, breakbulk, heavylift, project and general cargo customers. The self-sustaining port generates more than $3.9 billion in annual economic impacts while providing for more than 27,000 direct and indirect jobs, all without benefit of local property tax support.