Martin commissioners getting on board against All Aboard Florida

Publish Date: 
Sunday, June 8, 2014 - 11:15am

By Sally Swartz  - Source article here

The campaign against All Aboard Florida is picking up speed on the Treasure Coast. The proposed high-speed train would connect downtown Miami to Orlando International Airport, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach  and nowhere else.

On Tuesday, Martin County commissioners joined other governments fighting the trains in St. Lucie, Indian River and northern Palm Beach counties.
The project calls for 32 passenger trains daily, rocketing nonstop through coastal communities at speeds of 110-125 mph. More freight trains also are expected to join the high-speed passenger service.
Martin officials unanimously approved a resolution similar to those that Stuart, Jupiter Island, Tequesta, Fort Pierce, Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Indian River County and St. Lucie Village have OKd. St. Lucie County votes on one next week.

Martin Commissioner Doug Smith, who has supported All Aboard Florida, did not explain why he changed his mind to oppose it. Political reality is a possibility. Candidates from both parties running for local, state and national offices on the Treasure Coast oppose the passenger rail service.

Meantime, nearly 15,000 residents in coastal counties have signed petitions opposing All Aboard Florida, said K.C. Traylor, chair of Florida NOT All Aboard. Traylor said she spoke to the Delray Beach City Commission last week, and her group plans information forums in St. Lucie and Brevard counties next month.

Martin County Sheriffs Office and Martin Health System officials, Traylor said, also are concerned about the proposal. Trains could block law enforcement officers from responding to crimes in progress or slow ambulances from getting to people who need them. Theyre both concerned about critical time delays, Traylor told commissioners.

Martin Commission Chair Sarah Heard calls All Aboard Florida a genuine threat to public health, safety and welfare. The train tracks pass close to the Indian River Lagoon, which local, state and federal governments have spent millions to restore. Tracks through Jonathan Dickinson State Park, Heard said, could adversely affect threatened and endangered species that live there.

Heard said the train would travel through all the historic towns along the coast where Community Redevelopment Areas have spent millions to revitalize and rejuvenate downtowns and commercial areas.
Laura Hemmings of Palm Beach Gardens told commissioners noise from the bullet trains would drive out diners at outdoor restaurants and would chase away tourists that bring economic life to downtown Stuart. All Aboard Floridas backers seek a $1.5 billion federal loan, but Heard said no public money should be spent on this private project.

The Martin resolution also asks for a 90-day rather than 45-day comment period after federal railway authorities issue an environmental impact statement, expected in the next few weeks. And, Martin wants one of the public hearings scheduled in Stuart. While quiet zones railway officials have promised are important, Heard said, they are not enough to satisfy me or our residents.
Commissioners also changed language in the resolution, replacing will with would, for example, to indicate that All Aboard Florida is not a done deal. A Jupiter resident who said her family worries about the effects on boaters urged Martin commissioners to approve the resolution.

Describing a day on the water when weather suddenly turned bad, Valerie Morton said the family boat was stalled with 20 others on one side of the railroad bridge across the Loxahatchee with the grandchildren crying and the dog barking. When the train finally passed, 20 boats backed up on the other side of the bridge made marine traffic difficult and dangerous.

We have 16 trains a day now, and they are going to make it 50 (counting passenger and freight trains)? she asked. We are going to have real safety issues on the water.

Martin commissioners have been asking questions about All Aboard Florida for more than a year, and no one likes the answers.
On the Treasure Coast, the only thing faster than a speeding bullet train is the campaign to stop it.