The Facts On All Aboard Florida High Speed Train

The Players, Definitions and Acronyms

Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing
All Aboard Florida is a wholly owned subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries LLC (FECI) that proposes to provide rail service between Miami and Orlando, with intermediate stops in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
NYSE listed railroad company that owns and operates a network of railroad systems east of the Mississippi River.
Environmental Impact Study
Florida East Coast Track
Florida East Coast Industries LLC- A Coral Gables-based holding company financially backed by the Fortress Investment Group.
Fortress Investment Group
Federal Railroad Administration - The branch of the Federal government that oversees the nation's railway system.
Quiet Zones
Measures to mitigate train noise
Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. The public entity that oversees the management of Orlando International and Executive Airports.
Positive Train Control. An advanced technology designed to automatically stop or slow a train before certain accidents occur.
United States Coast Guard

AAF proposes to follow the existing Florida East Coast (FEC) tracks in eastern portions of Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard Counties. AAF plans to run Big Choo Choo on existing tracks (with some improvements) from Miami to Brevard County. They are in negotiations to lease part of the SR 528 right-of-way necessary to complete the east-west corridor from Cocoa Beach to Orlando International Airport.

FECI is asking 80+ local jurisdictions along the train's right-of-way to assume the considerable expense of upgrading and maintaining the 300+ at-grade crossings along the route from Miami to Orlando, approximately 30 of which are in Martin County.

AAF Trains will run fast and often through Treasure Coast towns:

  • 32 times/day (16 round trips)
  • 3-4 trains will run each hour from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Not presently required to create quiet zones
  • To run at speeds up to 110 mph between West Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach

CSX Railroad Company

The assets of CSX Railroad Company in Florida include infrastructure in the southeastern part of the State that connects from West Palm Beach to the Orlando and Tampa areas. These rails mainly pass through undeveloped inland tracts and thereby avoid urban areas in Martin, St. Lucie, Indian River and Brevard Counties.

Routing AAF trains onto the CSX rails or onto new rails in the CSX corridor would reduce congestion, noise and other adverse impacts on residents of all Treasure Coast counties. This alternative route appears unlikely since CSX is a competitor.

CSX in peninsular Florida
CSX in peninsular Florida

EIS Environmental Impact Study required by National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1969

A detailed investigation required by the Federal government that describes and analyzes a proposed project with the potential to have a significant impact on the environment. The EIS is available to the public for information and comment.

An EIS must include:

  • A description of the proposal, including its need and benefits;
  • A description of the environmental setting and areas to be affected;
  • Include the potential impacts to Economic and Social Environments, Cultural Resources, Environmental Justice, Noise and Vibration, Air and Water Quality and Protected Species and Essential Habitats;
  • An analysis of all environmental impacts related to the action;
  • An analysis of reasonable alternatives to the action;
  • Identification of ways to reduce or avoid adverse environmental impacts.

The EIS for the Big Choo Choo will be available for review and comment by the general public during a 30-day comment period, expected to begin in May 2014. The NEPA process for the 66-mile intercity passenger rail service between Miami and West Palm Beach has been completed and a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) was issued in January 2013 by the FRA.

Construction cannot begin until the EIS has been approved by the Federal government.

FECI- Florida East Coast Industries LLC

A Coral Gables-based holding company financially backed by the Fortress Investment Group. There are four distinct business lines:

  1. Flagler, a development and commercial real estate company;
  2. All Aboard Florida, the United States's first privately owned, operated and maintained intercity passenger rail system;
  3. Flagler Global Logistics, an integrated freight transportation company that offers a wide range of air, rail, truck and shipping services;
  4. Parallel Infrastructure, a national right-of-way management and infrastructure development company involved with third-party Right of Way (ROW) investments and management services.

FRA Federal Railroad Administration

The branch of the Federal government that oversees the nation's railway system. The FRA also oversees the development and evaluation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the All Aboard project

Provide comments on the EIS to:
John Winkle, Transportation Industry Analyst Office of Railroad Policy and Development Federal Railroad Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE, Room W38-311 Washington, DC 20590

FIG - Fortress Investment Group

Fortress Investment Group LLC (NYSE: FIG) is a New York-based private equity hedge fund manager of approximately $61 billion dollars in assets. In 2012 Fortress reported annual net income of $14.3 billion dollars. FIG bought FECI for $3.5 billion in 2007.

FIG has installed a management team whose mission is to maximize profitable returns on its railway assets. FIG is asking local governments in Florida to bear the cost of upgrading railroad crossings between Miami and Orlando as part of its All Aboard Florida rail initiative.

GOAA - The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority

A public entity that oversees the management of Orlando International and Executive Airports. Governor Scott has requested that Florida legislature appropriate $213 million for a transportation hub located at Orlando International Airport. The Authority consists of a seven-member board that includes the mayor of the City of Orlando, the Chairman of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners, and five other members who are appointed by the Governor.

The Big Choo Choo will need to enter into a lease with GOAA to construct and operate a passenger rail station and vehicle-maintenance facility on GOAA-owned lands.

OOCEA - Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority

The governmental entity that oversees the network of toll roads in the Orlando-Orange County area. The five-member Board includes three gubernatorial appointees.

Florida East Coast Industries has completed negotiations with OOCEA to lease part of the State Road 528 right-of-way necessary to complete the east-west corridor of the project.

PTC- Positive Train Control

An advanced technology designed to automatically stop or slow a train before certain accidents occur. PTC is designed to prevent train-to-train collisions, derailments caused by excessive speed and unauthorized movement of trains onto sections of track where repairs are being made or as a result of a misaligned track switch.

The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) published final regulations for PTC systems on January 15, 2010 requiring that PTC systems be functional by December 15, 2015. Technological challenges make it unlikely the date will be met.

Quiet Zones

Unless expensive countermeasures are taken, the Federal Railway Administration requires engineers to begin sounding train horns at least 15 seconds, and no more than 20 seconds, in advance of all public at-grade crossings. Horns must be repeated or prolonged until the lead locomotive or lead cab car occupies the crossing.

Measures to mitigate train noise are expensive but can be made such that horns needn't be sounded. FECI has not committed to creating Quiet Zones in most of the counties along the proposed track and the funding for long-term maintenance is uncertain.

In an examination of just Martin County, there are approximately 30 road crossings of the FEC tracks, 28 of which are in moderately dense urbanized areas.

FEC RR Crossings in Martin County

Traffic volumes at key RR crossings in Martin Co.*

RR Crossing 2012 Avg Annual Daily Trips Peak Hourly crossings Existing roadway Level of Service
Jensen Bch Blvd 21,620 1,025 A/B
Confusion Corner 11,918 663 C
Monterey Rd 24,438 1,153 C
Indian Street 21,757 1,102 A/B
Salerno Rd 7,551 413 A/B
Bridge Rd 8,069 446 A/B

*A = Best
*2012 is most current data
*Source: Martin County Engineering Dept.

RRIF - Rail Road Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing

A Federal financial program administered by the Federal Railway Administration (FRA) through which long-term, low-interest loans are provided for railroad improvement projects. Florida East Coast Industries has applied for a Federal guarantee of a $1.6 billion loan, the first of what is likely to be many Federal loans.

USCG - United States Coast Guard

The Federal governmental entity that regulates bridges and therefore must consider the ramifications of bridge closures on vessel traffic on the nation's waterways before issuing permits. Key bridge closures on the route of Big Choo Choo along the Treasure Coast include the railroad bridges across the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers.

The approximate time to raise and lower the St. Lucie River railroad bridge is 12-15 minutes. This means the bridge may be closed to boaters a total of 11-18 hrs each day when All Aboard's 32 daily trains are added to existing freight train use of 22 crossings/day.

Photo credit: C. Hanchey

Get Involved:

  • Learn more about the projects & potential impacts in your area. Contact your Local, State and Federal politicians
  • Provide input at public forums
  • Organize a presentation for groups with which you are involved. For more information: