All Aboard Florida applies for federal permit

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, November 4, 2014 - 6:00am

All Aboard Florida’s proposed passenger rail would impact 128 to 165 acres of wetlands and surface waters within or near the proposed rail, according to a federal permit application notice.

The proposal, which includes new and relocated tracks, also would improve or replace existing bridges — including several in Brevard County.

The public has until Dec. 3 to comment on the permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The Federal Railroad Administration, along with the Corps, will hold a public workshop Nov. 12 in Cocoa to gather public input about the permit application, as well as a recently released environmental study of the project.

“I’m deeply concerned,” said Monique Miller, an opponent of the rail proposal.

Miller worries about the environmental impacts of building new bridges over Indian River Lagoon tributaries and about public safety.

According to the Corps public notice, the project would retain the bridge over Horse Creek in Melbourne, but demolish and rebuild bridges over the Eau Gallie River, Crane Creek, Turkey Creek, Goat Creek and the St. Sebastian River.

All new structures would be concrete, supported on concrete pilings and would maintain existing vertical and horizontal clearances.

“Only minor filling in waters of the United States would be associated with bridge abutments,” the Corps notice says.

The project would include new tracks, bridges over and under highways and over waterways.

The 35-mile corridor between Orlando International Airport and Cocoa would parallel State Road 528. A new railroad within the corridor would cross several state highways (SR 417 and SR 520) and Interstate 95, linking with the north-south corridor in Cocoa.

One alternative would build a new 60-foot-wide rail along SR 528. That option would would impact 128 acres of wetlands within 300-feet of the center line of the corridor, the notice says.

Another option for the east-west corridor would create a new 100-foot-wide rail along SR 528 with two tracks and a parallel maintenance access road. That option would impact about 165 acres of wetlands.

The north-south corridor follows existing Florida East Coast Railroad between Cocoa and Miami, extending 128.5 miles.

In consultation with federal wildlife agencies, the Corps determined the proposed work may impact, but is “not likely to adversely affect,” several species of marine and land animals.

According to the notice, the project would have “no effect” to the Florida panther, Everglade snail kite, red-cockaded woodpecker, Atlantic salt marsh snake, and piping plover, based on lack of suitable habitat within the corridor.

The project could impact the Florida scrub-jay, the blue-tailed mole skink and Florida sand skink, the notice says and 25 active and inactive threatened gopher tortoise burrows. Those burrows would have to be evacuated before work, and eastern indigo snakes would be allowed to vacate the area before work begins.

The rail is “not likely to adversely affect” the snakes, or manatees and wood storks, the notice says.

“We’re in the information gathering stage,” said Andrew Phillips, a project manager with the Corps. “We have not made any permit decisions whatsoever.”

All Aboard Florida federal permit application

• A public notice for the permit application to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been posted at: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Regulatory/PublicNotices/tabid/60...

• The public notice has been extended to Dec. 3, 2014, commensurate with the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS). Read the EIS here: https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0672

Questions about the Corps application

Direct questions to Andrew Phillips, in writing at the Cocoa Permits Section, 400 High Point Drive, Suite 600, Cocoa, Florida 32926, by electronic mail at andrew.w.phillips@usace.army.mil, by fax at 321-504-3803, or by telephone at 321-504-3771, ext. 14.