Florida electric co-op building rail line to serve its new industrial estate

Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative is building the rail spur to serve a proposed industrial development

A US electric co-op is building a light rail line for the first time, as part of an industrial estate it is building on its 33-acre site in Pasco County, Florida.

Withlacoochee River Electric Cooperative (WREC) is working with an anonymous manufacturer on the Project Lexus development and has been awarded US$723,400 by Pasco County Office of Economic Growth to build a rail line which will connect the site to a mainline operated by CSX Transportation.

Pasco County says the rail spur is an essential planning requirement for the industrial park, which is expected to create around 150 high paying jobs in the area.

The Pasco County Housing Authority donated the site, named One Lacoochee Center,  to WREC in 2019 after it had fallen into disrepair.

“The housing authority shut down the development because it couldn’t afford the repairs and donated it to the co-op, which paid for asbestos clean-up and site demolition,” said David Lambert, WREC’s manager of member relations.

“Significant dollars have gone into the development of the park and if you put it all together, we’ve received through legislative budget requests and grant funding in the last two years about $12m.”

WREC is receiving consultancy support from CSX to build the rail line, this being WREC’s first rail project. Lambert said that as WREC doesn’t have prior experience in this area, CSX has been “extremely helpful”.

WREC is a member owned co-op that provides electricity to over 200,000 accounts on the west central coast of Florida, including Pasco County. 

If the development goes through, WREC will build an electrical substation to serve it. Billy E. Brown, the co-op’s vice president and general manager, said that the project “will hit a lot of touchpoints”, including “jobs, huge tax base and a major load for the co-operative.”