By Rich Campbell, TCPalm
One of the very first paragraphs in the summary of the DRAFT EIS speaks volumes for Treasure Coast residents.
On Friday, the Federal Railroad Administration released its long-awaited Environmental Impact Statement on All Aboard Florida’s planned passenger rail service.
There will be no stops in Vero Beach, Fort Pierce or Stuart.
No surprise here. We already knew this. But what follows in the 522-page document is an examination of potential impacts to Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Stuart and other communities in our region that will bear the brunt of the project and reap no direct benefits — and the preliminary conclusions are discouraging.
Consider the following statements on potential impacts to transportation, navigation and noise and vibration along the N-S Corridor (Cocoa to West Palm Beach):
Transportation: “The N-S Corridor would result in some degradation in levels of service at the grade crossings and intersections studied, with greater percentages of time within an hour of operation under unacceptable roadway conditions ...”
Navigation: “Under all Action Alternatives, the movable bridges (St. Lucie River, Loxahatchee River and New River) would be closed more frequently to accommodate the increased number of trains. AAF has developed an operating plan that minimizes the number and duration of closures; however, the total daily closure time at each bridge would increase ...”
Noise and vibration: “The greatest potential for vibration impact is along the N-S Corridor due to the increase (approximately doubling) of vibration events.”
Then, woven throughout the environmental impact statement are little nuggets that are supposed to make us feel better and believe the potential impacts really won’t be that bad.
For example, the citation above on “navigation” is followed immediately by this statement: “AAF is proposing to mitigate for this increased closure time by implementing new measures to notify mariners of the bridge closure times and to make closure times more predictable.”
One thing becomes clear in reading the Environmental Impact Statement: The Federal Railroad Administration appears to be laying the philosophical framework to sign off on the high-speed passenger rail project.
Treasure Coast residents from Sebastian to Hobe Sound have been outspoken in their opposition to All Aboard Florida.
We need to speak louder.
The document released Friday is the draft Environmental Impact Statement. It is the precursor to the final Environmental Impact Statement — the document that will determine if and how the project proceeds to completion.
If you oppose All Aboard Florida, it is imperative for you to read the draft report and share your reasons with the Federal Railroad Administration.
The stated purpose of the draft is “to disclose all environmental effects associated with the project alternatives, whether they are adverse or beneficial, and allow the public to review and comment on the document” (italics added).
This is no time to be silent.