THE FIGHT AGAINST AAF IS FAR FROM OVER

Publish Date: 
Wednesday, June 29, 2016 - 2:30pm

SUNSHINE STATE NEWS - BRENT HANLON

I recently read a column in Sunshine State News by Ed Dean, a statewide syndicated radio talk show host, in which he stated, “...since the announcement of the high-speed rail train project, All Aboard Florida (AAF) has been outflanked by its opponents when it comes to public relations (June 20, "AAF Gaining Steam, Opponents Losing It"). But on the legal front, AAF is winning the battle.”

Yes, AAF may have seen some recent victories in court, but I can promise you the fight is far from over and the residents of the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach regions are far from giving up.
 
Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida (CARE FL) is unwavering in our commitment to protecting the safety, welfare and quality of life of the citizens of South Florida and the Treasure Coast from the threats posed by the ill-conceived AAF passenger rail project. For that reason, we continue to support Indian River and Martin counties as they try to put an end to this misguided project through the legal system. 
 
Our local elected officials are to be applauded for their steadfast commitment to protecting our communities and for taking a stand against a major corporation with deep pockets and a deep bench of corporate lawyers.
 
Commissioners in Indian River and Martin counties have been our champions in this fight, and have worked tirelessly to do the right thing. Congressmen Bill Posey and Patrick Murphy have also been champions for our cause on the federal level, while state representatives Mary Lynn Magar, Debbie Mayfield and Gayle Harrell have been fearless advocates for us in the Legislature. 
 
They have listened to our concerns, demanded meetings with AAF and state regulators on our behalf, stood with us at meetings, public hearings and rallies and continue to make their voices heard.
 
AAF may tout their small victories, but this issue has larger implications in our region and we will not surrender. Under the AAF project, 32 passenger trains per day and additional freight trains would travel from Miami to Orlando, speeding through our small towns at more than 100 miles per hour, endangering anyone in their path. There will undoubtedly be an increased risk for something to go wrong and for accidents to happen. These trains will not only carry passengers, but potentially dangerous freight, including flammable or sensitive materials. Any accident could produce disastrous results for ourselves, our neighbors and our community.
 
As these trains barrel through our communities, they will also inevitably cause delays for residents trying to get to and from school and work. More importantly, they will create obstacles for ambulances, police and other first responders trying to get to citizens in need, and create safety risks for pedestrians, school buses and other vehicles crossing the tracks.
 
Two and a half years ago when our efforts began, no one thought we would come this far. But our friends, neighbors and elected leaders have built a strong argument against allowing these trains to whiz through our small, idyllic towns. The residents of the Treasure Coast communities who have the most to lose from this project continue to stand with CARE and oppose AAF. But support for our cause is also expanding as our message reaches out to other communities in South and Central Florida. Our voices are being heard and our concerns are being shared by many of our fellow Floridians from Orlando to Miami.
 
We remain strong in our resolve to advocate for these concerned citizens. We must persevere. Thanks to the support of so many, the fight does continue. This week, Indian River and Martin counties have another hearing against the AAF project before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.
 
So instead of putting all of the focus on the occasional losses our side may endure in just one of the courses of action taken against this ill-conceived project, let’s focus on the real issue: AAF is a boondoggle that puts our communities at risk.
 
Brent Hanlon is chairman of CARE FL, a coalition of concerned citizens in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach regions dedicated to protecting the safety, welfare and way of life of those living in the region.