Publish Date: 
Thursday, May 14, 2015 - 10:15am

PRESS RELEASE FROM CARE FLORIDA: The safety and welfare of more than 8,000 students in the Martin County School District who travel to and from school could be at “serious risk” should the All Aboard Florida (AAF) rail project be allowed to go forward. Today, Bill Ward, Chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE FL), Martin County School Superintendent Laurie Gaylord, Representative MaryLynn Magar, Martin County Commissioner John Haddox and Martin County Sheriff William Snyder voiced their concerns about the AAF plan, which proposes to add 32 passenger trains to the 30 freight trains that crisscross the region daily.

“The Martin County School District is entrusted with the safety and well-being of 18,000 students,” said Superintendent Gaylord. “Our District has 110 school buses in its fleet with some 71 routes that transport over 8,000 students every school day. We already struggle with traffic issues, and I cannot even imagine our bus drivers having to maneuver around 110-mile-per-hour trains.”

In November 2014, Superintendent Gaylord expressed safety and economic concerns in a letter from the Martin County School District to the Federal Rail Administration.

AAF proposes to build high-speed rail between Orlando and Miami, and is currently seeking government funding. If AAF secures that funding and goes forward, passenger rail traffic would quadruple; freight traffic is also expected to increase sharply.

Children, regardless of whether they bike, walk or take a bus to school, will be at risk of a collision with 32 high-speed trains per day running through towns and communities. According to the Martin County School District, 10 out of 28 crossings over rail lines in Martin County include pedestrian crossings – the same ones that children use to get to school every day.

Bill Ward, CARE Steering Committee Chairman, said that’s an unacceptable trade-off for area school children. 
“Kids shouldn’t have to put their lives at risk just to get to school every day. This deeply troubles me as a parent with children in the Martin County School District,” he said. “Given the high speed of the AAF project, we are concerned about the safety of all pedestrians, including students.”

CARE FL, an organization of local homeowners, neighbors and community leaders, recently commissioned a Mason-Dixon Poll in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach regions which found that four out of every five registered voters in the Treasure Coast and North Palm Beach County - 80 percent - oppose AAF. Only 15 percent support it. Safety was one of the top concerns cited. The poll also found that 77 percent believe AAF will make traffic conditions worse, while only 4 percent believe they will improve. Notably, 59 percent believe AAF will slow down response times for police, fire and medical emergency units in the communities along the tracks.

“High-speed trains will race through our diverse family neighborhoods in Hobe Sound, Rio, East Stuart, Golden Gate and Port Salerno,” Martin County Commissioner Haddox told today’s gathering of concerned citizens. “Some of our most vulnerable residents live in these communities. Many don’t have cars, so they walk or bike across the tracks to get to work or school. The proposed All Aboard Florida project does nothing to benefit them; instead, it puts our most vulnerable citizens at even greater risk.”
Sheriff Snyder, who participated in today’s event, says he shares that concern.

“In any emergency, the time it takes for us to reach the scene of an accident can literally be the difference between life and death,” Sheriff Snyder said. “We strongly urge All Aboard Florida to reconsider the current plan for expansion, which is bound to have serious and lasting repercussions on local citizens, including thousands of school-aged children.”