I’m about to spit into the wind.
I fully expect this request to fall on deaf ears.
Still, it is a request that must be articulated — even if it is ignored or rejected.
The Florida Development Finance Corp. — the quasi-governmental agency that will decide the fate of a bond application from All Aboard Florida — should hold a public hearing in our region before voting on this issue.
To do otherwise would be an affront to Treasure Coast residents who have grave concerns about the impacts the rail project will have on our communities.
And, unlike the finance agency’s public hearing Monday in Tallahassee on All Aboard Florida, the agency’s five board members should attend the meeting.
In a few years, train traffic on the Florida East Coast rail line may be nothing short of a nightmare scenario for local residents.
All Aboard Florida plans to begin running 32 daily passenger trains between Miami and Orlando in 2017. FEC, which now runs 12 to 14 freight trains a day through our region, also is laying the groundwork — with the recent purchase of new locomotives — to double the number of freight trains.
Do the math. Can you fathom the impact of 60 trains (32 passenger trains and 28 freight trains) bisecting the Treasure Coast each day?
All Aboard Florida is seeking to issue $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds to pay for locomotives, train cars, land acquisition, construction and equipment along much of its 235-mile corridor.
The U.S. Department of Transportation provisionally authorized the bonds in December. However, the finance development corporation board must approve the request before All Aboard Florida can issue the bonds to help finance its $3 billion project.
It’s fair to say the board’s decision could make or break the project.
Despite the distance from Tallahassee and the fact administrators, not board members, staffed Monday’s meeting, several Treasure Coast residents and officials made the trip to voice their concerns.
Even so, K.C. Traylor thinks the board should hold a public hearing on the Treasure Coast.
“I think board members need to hear from local voices about how this project will affect our communities,” said Traylor, founder of the group Florida Not All Aboard, which opposes the passenger-rail project.
Enterprise Florida spokeswoman Beth Frady has said all comments submitted by the public will be considered by the agency.
However, there are two things the finance development corporation board members cannot learn from submitted comments forwarded to them by staff: 1) the breadth of opposition in our region to All Aboard Florida; and 2) the depth of our concerns about how this project will affect our quality of life.
It would be easy for the Florida Development Finance Corp. to blow off a request to hold a public hearing on the Treasure Coast. After all, All Aboard Florida’s bond application specified using the proceeds in Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Brevard and Orange counties. Technically, the agency doesn’t need to concern itself with Indian River, Martin and St. Lucie counties.
Moreover, the agency publicly advertised — and now has conducted — a public hearing on the matter.
No. The due diligence of finance agency board members will be woefully incomplete unless they hold a public hearing in Stuart, Fort Pierce or Vero Beach and look into the faces of those whose daily commutes, property values, emergency transportation, public safety and recreational pursuits will be negatively affected by All Aboard Florida.