By Sally Schwarz, columnist for the Palm Beach Post.
AAF plans a high-speed rail passenger service from Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach but none in northern Palm Beach County or the Treasure Coast. Backers bill it as a private venture, but they seek a $1.6 billion federal loan. Some believe the scheme, backed by the Fortress Investment Group – owners of Florida East Coast Industries — doesn’t give a hoot about the passenger service. Instead, the plan is to use taxpayer money and a federal loan to improve tracks and upgrade rail systems from Miami to Cocoa by 2015. That’s when a new Panama Canal lock opens. Giant cargo ships loaded with Chinese goods will be ready to head to the Port of Miami, newly dredged and equipped thanks to a $112 million grant from the state of Florida. The state is giving $215 million more to build the rail line’s Orlando station.
According to Florida NOT All Aboard, the Fortress hedge fund owns the ships, the containers, the docks, the trains and rails and plans to move cargo from ships to trains for transport up the east coast. If All Aboard Florida fails financially — as has every other attempt at passenger rail service in the U.S. — new tracks installed for AAF remain for freight trains to use. "People finally are starting to wake up at higher levels of government," Murphy said.
"Nothing against Miami and Orlando, but you can’t ignore everything in the middle." He cites problems facing communities beside the railroad tracks: Noise, pollution, traffic jams and bridges blocking boat traffic 30-45 minutes each time a train goes through. He also worries about safety at crossings and wins cheers and applause when he suggests moving the passenger train west "out of this area where it will not affect our quality of life."