By K.C. Traylor, Florida NOT All Aboard
Dear Governor Scott. Reading a copy of your recent letter to Mr. Michael Reininger, President of All Aboard Florida, has meant a lot to us. First, I want to thank you for your sensitivity to our concerns about All Aboard Florida. We need the support of our leaders because we are simply a grass roots movement facing very powerful interests.
We applaud you for promising no state subsidies. All Aboard Florida is a risky venture by an indebted company with a junk bond rating. We feel that a private sector venture should only use private sector funding. State subsidies should be limited to low risk ventures with broad support. We already have railroad passenger service from Miami to Orlando provided by AMTRAK, and it is not profitable because of sparse ridership. Isn't that the best predictor of success for All Aboard Florida? The president of AMTRAK said that AMTRAK would never be profitable. You and Governor Jeb Bush both turned down plans for railroad passenger service because of cost and feasibility. About 20 years ago the proposed high-speed, magnetic levitation train was abandoned because sufficient ridership never was deemed to be achievable. In a recent editorial, the Palm Beach Post described All Aboard Florida's business plan as "odd" and quoted an economist as saying it was "pie in the sky."
You mentioned Florida's commitment of funds to support the creation of quiet zones. I would like to emphasize that the quiet zone element of our burden is only the beginning for us. As you know, every crossing (114 in Palm Beach County alone) has to be leased from the railroad, and our local governments have to pay for additional fees for landscaping, maintenance, and liability insurance. The railroad's ambitious plans will inevitably increase our tax bills. At the same time, depreciating residential and business values will cause our communities to get by with a lower tax base.
We support your point on the purpose of the intermodal facility at the Orlando International Airport. We are very mindful that this is meant to be a public-private partnership. The public pays and the private profits. We don't want the first tenant to abuse the State of Florida on your watch.
We want to go on record as saying we don't think it is good policy to confine the comment period for the Environmental Impact Study to the summer when our snowbirds are up north. They will necessarily share all our hardships. Extending the comment period to 90 days is a modest request from our side under the circumstances. You were right to point out the inadequacy of the bridges over the New River, St. Lucie River, and the Loxahatchee River. These antiquated structures are not ready for high-speed passenger service and the impact of freight train expansion. Our bridge over the St. Lucie was built in 1925 and will remain single tracked. The St. Lucie Bridge is a huge choke point on the waterway connecting the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Boaters complain about pieces falling off the bridge periodically. The Loxahatchee River Bridge literally cuts the Village of Tequesta in half leaving residents on one side and emergency responders on the other. Nearby Jupiter will face the same problem. The Jupiter Medical Center near the Toney Pena crossing is a vital part of the community because it is a first-class hospital. It has been ranked in the top 5O in the country. The Jupiter Inlet District has recorded on film every crossing over the Loxahatchee River Bridge since New Years, and show that the average crossing time is 19 minutes.
We take seriously the concept of the Golden Hour; the period of time medical responders have the best opportunity to save a life. Can you imagine the experience of waiting at the Toney Pena crossing in an ambulance while a freight train up to 2.5 miles long lumbers by? On the New River in Ft. Lauderdale, a $7 billion marina industry lies west of the railroad bridge. Stifling delays with bridge openings will devastate that industry. The hardship of that industry alone makes it impossible to justify the speculative prospect for job creation promised by the railroad.
We represent the residents of Florida who will have to deal with the economic and social impact of the project. We will be here while the railroaders in Jacksonville and the hedge fund managers in far off New York will profit. They do not have to deal with any of the impacts. They want to force us to fund the very thing that will strangle our communities.
Today our organization has put together 16,000 signatures against this project, and that number is growing daily. We have more than 25 resolutions or letters of concern about this project from local communities and Organizations. This is a boondoggle in the making that will harm taxpayers. Governor Scott, do you really believe this hedge fund has found the magic formula that no one else in the Western Hemisphere can figure out - that is to create a PROFITABLE passenger line? Like the proposed project in California, the $1.5 billion RRIF loan is only the beginning for the cost to taxpayers.
We are very grateful that you are aware of our serious concerns. We believe we are aligned with the best interests of the majority of Florida citizens and so are you. We pray for your continued interest and support, and wish you the very best.