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Commentary, sarcasm and snide remarks from a Florida resident of over thirty years. Being a glutton for punishment is a requirement for residency here. Who am I? I've been called a moonbat by Michelle Malkin, a Right Wing Nut by Daily Kos, and middle of the road by Florida blog State of Sunshine. Tell me what you think.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm working on the railroad

Just to pass the time taxpayer expense. From the Tampa Tribune-

The road workers spread concrete, shape curbs and sweep debris on the new bridge next to the CSX railroad tracks. As the four men work, one man watches.

Day after day he sits in his black pickup or strolls around the site in Polk County, each day of his service costing the county nearly $500.

The total after 14 months: about $160,000.

CSX Transportation charges taxpayers across the country millions for the people who do this type of work. They're called flagmen, but they don't stand on the tracks waving flags.

They sit in their vehicles for hours, waiting for word of a train so they can warn road crews to stand clear - even when the road work is far from the tracks for days at a time, even when the tracks see only one train a day or none at all.

In Hillsborough and Polk counties, government agencies paid the railroad company at least $3 million from 2003 to 2006, according to records reviewed by The Tampa Tribune.

State and local agencies don't track what they spend on flagging, so there are no statewide or national figures on how much CSX collects.

The agencies sign contracts for the service, but the railroad sets the terms. Many don't even know what they are paying for because they don't verify the flagmen's hours or examine discrepancies between charges and time sheets.

Although he doesn't know how much the state Department of Transportation is paying for flagmen, Gary Fitzpatrick, state rail office administrator, said he's sure it's a lot.

"It's scary" to imagine how high, he said.

CSX stands by its flagging costs, saying in a written statement that the work is needed "to protect public safety and railroad employees and property."

Flagging is one of the best positions on the railroad, flagmen say, sought by the workers with the most seniority.
Yes why can't TFM get such a cushy job. Then I don't need to be out in the sun too much with my history of malignant melanoma.

Stories like this are why taxpayers always think their taxes are too high. Our government is pissing away money and nobody thinks twice about it.

Except for the press. The Tampa Tribune editoiralized.

CSX Transportation needs the public's good will to thrive, but it's hard to feel kindly about a railroad that forces taxpayers to spend millions of dollars so that unionized flagmen can sit at railroad crossings near road projects, even when no train is scheduled to pass.

Surely there's a better way to manage costs and protect property than to pay a senior worker $25 an hour to sit in his truck all day. Worse, the railroad bumps that rate by 75 to 85 percent before sending the bill to state and local governments.

Between 2003 and 2006, government agencies in Hillsborough and Polk counties paid at least $3 million to CSX so that flagmen could sit and watch road crews near rail crossings. In one case, Polk taxpayers paid $160,000 for a flagman to sit in his truck, drink coffee and watch a road crew over 14 months.

CSX should be embarrassed by its abusive pricing strategy, which was brought to light Sunday by Tribune reporter Lindsay Peterson.

And the nonchalant Department of Transportation should launch an investigation into the railroad's billing practices, while establishing new rules to prevent taxpayers from being gouged.
CSX won't ever be embarassed. They took advantage of a lax bureaucracy. One that too often just doesn't care or just does nothing. Heck it isn't their money that is being spent.

Linked to- Big Dog, Bright & Early, Bullwinkle,

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