Waterway Guide, authority on cruising America's coastal waterways since 1947, is urging boaters to participate in the U.S. Coast Guard comment period -- giving the USCG their views on how railway bridges across South Florida waterways will affect them if and when All Aboard Florida becomes a reality.
Those views must be in writing and must go directly to the U.S. Coast Guard, not to the magazine or anywhere else, according to the publication's news editor, Mike Ahart.
The All Aboard Florida (AAF) passenger rail service, as proposed, would add 32 trains to Florida East Coast Railway tracks from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m every day, between Cocoa and Miami. Ahart claims the train service would severely affect vessel traffic at the following:
St. Lucie River
The bridge across the St. Lucie River at Stuart (closed vertical clearance: 7 feet -- also part of the Okeechobee Waterway Route)
New RiverThe busy New River in Fort Lauderdale (closed vertical clearance: 4 feet -- see related story)
The Loxahatchee River
The bridge across the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter, off the Intracoastal Waterway at Mile 1005, (closed vertical clearance: 4 feet).
Ahart points out that these bridges are normally in the open position except when a train is approaching or crossing. But with the increased train traffic, he says, openings would happen only a few times per hour and could be dangerously brief.
Railroad bridge over the New River
FEC bridge over the New RiverHide
Freight trains currently use the tracks, and each lowering of a bridge closes the waterway for up to 20 minutes. Under the new passenger service plan, the freight trains would continue to use these bridges as well, to make a total of 42 to 46 trains a day -- in fact, due to the connection of the company with Port Everglades and its expansion to accommodate Post-Panamax ships, freight on the tracks is expected to increase.
Said Ahart, "These bridges also have frequent problems -- the FEC bridge in Stuart is frequently closed for repairs, and I once waited nearly an hour at the FEC bridge on the New River in Fort Lauderdale due to a malfunction."
Though this issue predominantly affects businesses, local boaters and cruisers in the general vicinity of the bridges, access to the Okeechobee Waterway and marinas and facilities upstream from these bridges will be hampered for all boaters, the magazine says.
Ahart reminds readers of a recent catastrophic boat fire in an anchorage just south of the Stuart railroad bridge. If 42 to 46 closings had been in force then, emergency response would have been severely impaired at that location, too.
Another concern: Cruisers who normally spend time (and money) in Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Stuart claim they will be reluctant to make those stops in an All Aboard Florida future.
The Coast Guard notice and request for survey information does not mention All Aboard Florida specifically, or any details on possible increased traffic and bridge delays, but the connection is clear. Shown when you open the link is the notice and details of the survey questions, but Ahart insists the actual survey must be downloaded and mailed, emailed or dropped off according to exact instructions. What he's saying is, don't use a copy/print of the Waterway Guide story or this story. Here it is below for those unable to print out the survey: