by Roger Normand
Big Yay! Funding for the extension has been secured, thanks to the overwhelming voter support for a $65 million bond referendum on the November 6, 2018, countywide general election. Now it’s on to those “pesky” implementation details! There are several key contractual dates (and some wiggle room) for the purchase of the rail corridor that were triggered by passage of the referendum:
- April 30, 2019. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Sarasota County (the County) must complete the due diligence review of the rail corridor from Ashton Road to Fruitville Road.
- May 30, 2019. TPL and the county must close on the $30.1 million purchase for the property with the sellers, CSX Transportation, Inc. and the Atlantic Land and Improvement Company, and its lessee, Seminole Gulf Railway. This date is contingent upon the County and TPL accepting the findings of the due diligence review, and Seminole Gulf obtaining the expected approval from the Federal Surface Transportation Board to “railbank” the corridor for use as a trail.
- November 29, 2019 (180 days after closing). Seminole Gulf must complete removal of the rails, switches, and signal equipment. Note that the County is responsible for removals at highway crossings.
The due diligence process is identical to and uses many of the same participants as those that were previously used for the December 2017 rail corridor acquisition from the existing Legacy Trail termination at Culverhouse Nature Park to Ashton Road. All these efforts are underway:
- A phase 1 (walking the corridor, historical record research) and phase 2 (soil sampling) physical and environmental assessment.
- Title search, including a review of leases, licenses, easements, and agreements.
- Boundary survey and resolution on any encroachment concerns.