Publish Date: 
Wednesday, October 29, 2014 - 6:15am


Few ask technical questions; many want work contracts or jobs.
By John Lantigua Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

MIAMI — Dozens of people flocked to the first public information forum on All Aboard Florida in downtown Miami Monday, a crowd that was overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the project, with many of them inquiring just how they might claim a piece of the economic pie.

The forum, the first of eight to be held between Miami and Orlando through Nov. 16, was convened on the campus of Miami-Dade College. Visitors wandered through a large hall, stopping at one easel after another to examine posters illustrating different environmental and economic issues surrounding the project: noise and vibration, traffic and grade crossings, impact on endangered species, air quality, effects on boat traffic and the marine industry, job creation. Experts stood by to answer questions.

The same presentation stops in Fort Lauderdale today, West Palm Beach on Wednesday and Stuart on Thursday, before continuing north. The privately funded express passenger line would eventually link Miami to Orlando. A spokesman for the Federal Railroad Administration, which is organizing the forums, said about 200 people attended Monday.

James Sandlin, of Singer Island, didn’t wait for the show to reach Palm Beach County. Sandlin, who described himself as “semiretired” from the construction business, said he was in favor of the plan.

“I applaud the fact that they are using an underutilized (rail) corridor and what they are doing is green,” he said. Asked if he might come out of retirement and seek a role in the construction of the project, he laughed.

“Maybe,” he said. “We’ll see.”

All Aboard Florida projects 10,000 construction jobs will be created, and $1.2 billion in wages produced. Another 1,600 workers will be needed to operate the rail system, the firm says. The Miami portion of the project includes a large train station — Miami Central — with tracks running 50 feet above street level, shops, restaurants, offices and two residential towers with 800 rental apartments, all in the middle of downtown.

Other attendees who work in construction were less coy about their interest. Mauro Laguna, of Gonzalez & Sons Construction in Miami-Dade, was enthusiastic. No surprise there - Gonzales is reputed to be the beneficiary of FEC contracts with no competitive bids.

“I’m here to show our support and to see what the opportunities might be for us,” he said.

Henry Alard, 59, a Miami-based business developer with long experience in the duty-free industry, said he was interested in placing products both on trains and in stations. Alard was told that people in attendance Monday were enthusiastic, but not everyone is, including some Palm Beach County residents.

“I guess some of those people have come down here to Florida from New York City and Chicago and they are tired of the trains,” he said. “But it would greatly benefit our economy.’

Ignacio Ayala, 63, also of Miami, who works in advertising, said he also saw an opportunity.

“I’m interested in display advertising in stations, like you see now in airports,” he said.

Bernard Plummer, 40, a nearby resident, said he wanted to work for the rail company. He said for him and other members of Miami’s African-American community, the project could be very posi tive. He emphasized the word “could.”

“I’m unemployed,” he said. “I need a job. I want to work for All Aboard.” He said he asked about possible opportunities but didn’t get much information.

Attendees were given forms to fill out on which they could write their comments. Many did so. They could also choose to give a three-minute oral statement to a court reporter stating their opinions. Only a handful did that.

Not everyone who attended had an economic interest in the project. Kelly Hudak, 36, and Bruce LaFollette, 45, said they are artists and cyclists and are looking forward to putting their bikes on the train and cycling around parts of Florida farther north, including Palm Beach County.

“We need less car traffic and less carbon dioxide in the air,” Hudak said.

Experts on environmental impact, noise levels, boat traffic and bridge closings — all issues that have been raised in Palm Beach County — said they received few questions from the Miami crowd. Engineering consultant Lisa Standley said she expected that she and her colleagues would get more questions as the presentation moves north.


BROWARD October 28, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM Broward County Convention Center | 1950 Eisenhower Blvd. | Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316

WEST PALM BEACH October 29, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM West Palm Beach Marriott| 1001 Okeechobee Boulevard| West Palm Beach, FL 33401

STUART October 30, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM The Kane Center | 900 SE Salerno Road | Stuart, FL 34997

VERO BEACH November 5, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM Indian River State College | Richardson Hall | 6155 College Lane| Vero Beach, FL 32966

PORT ST. LUCIE November 6, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM Port St. Lucie Civic Center | 9221 SE Civic Center Place, Port St Lucie, FL 34952

COCOA November 12, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM Cocoa Civic Center | 430 Delannoy Avenue | Cocoa, FL 32922

ORLANDO November 13, 2014 3:30 PM - 7:00 PM Wyndham Orlando Resort I-Drive| 8001 International Drive | Orlando, Florida, 32819

The DEIS public meetings will be in an open house format, with numerous stations with information about the project, the DEIS and related topics. Staff from FRA, the Army Corps of Engineers, AAF, FECR and the various engineering firms and consultants who assisted in the preparation of the DEIS will man the stations and be available for one-on-one questions. There will be a court reporter to take oral comments and a station with comment forms. Attendees can complete the comment forms at the meetings or take them home and mail them at a later date.