Jan. 20--TAMPA -- Advocates of the TECO Historic Streetcar have proposed various measures to mitigate a costly insurance policy CSX requires to cross its track in Ybor City, including one farcical proposal for streetcar passengers to get off, walk across the track and get back on.
After paying $4 million over the past decade for insurance to permit the non-profit streetcar to cross a CSX Transportation track that about eight freight and passenger trains use daily, the streetcar board is seeking relief from the state government.
The streetcar board has prepared a resolution requesting the board of the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority to get the Florida Legislature to amend state liability agreements with CSX to include the Tampa streetcar crossing and get the state to cover the costs.
"The Florida Department of Transportation has an agreement with CSX covering liability for passenger services that use or cross CSX facilities for South Florida Regional Transportation Authority (Tri-Rail -- West Palm Beach-Miami) and SunRail (Orlando area), and the state is absorbing that cost," the resolution said.
"Extension of the FDOT/CSX liability insurance agreement to the TECO Line Streetcar System would provide equitable treatment to all geographies in the state regarding cost of liability for using/crossing CSX Facilities.
"This action would lower total liability costs ... and enable local resources to be directed to improve service."
The premium for liability insurance for fiscal 2013 is $430,138, which is 30.2 percent of the streetcar's annual operating budget.
That equated to insurance crossing costs of more than $1.30 for each of the 330,000 total fiscal 2013 passengers.
CSX has insisted on a $100 million premium covering streetcar activities at the 13th Street and Fifth Avenue crossing, which streetcars have used up to 60 times a day.
The expensive premium nearly drained the $5 million endowment used to set up the streetcar line that began operation in October 2002.
A decade ago, a pundit suggested that to overcome the liability issue, streetcar passengers should disembark, walk across the CSX track, and re-board the streetcar
In the early days, the streetcar plan to lower insurance costs involved posting a flagman in an air conditioned trailer at the rail crossing.
No accidents have ever been reported at the crossing, but a near collision with an Amtrak passenger train led to a more elaborate warning program with an additional person assigned to watch for trains.
Eventually the extra guidance for streetcar operators was curtailed and by 2004 CSX agreed to a $100 million policy, whose premiums have been about $400,000 for 10 years.
Streetcar ridership the first three months of Fiscal 2014 through December was up 1 percent to 73,873.
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