St. Lucie County poised to declare All Aboard Florida threat to public

Publish Date: 
Sunday, June 15, 2014 - 7:00am

By Arnie Rosenberg Posted June 13, 2014 Source Article Here at TCPalm

ST. LUCIE COUNTY — County commissioners are poised to go on record Tuesday against All Aboard Florida.

One resolution on their agenda would formalize the county’s opposition to the $2.25 billion high-speed passenger-train project, calling it a threat to the public health, safety and welfare.

All Aboard Florida plans to run 16 daily round trips between Miami and Orlando — along the existing Florida East Coast Railway corridor through the heart of the Treasure Coast — and the twice-hourly road blockages would hinder emergency-service providers from making timely responses on either side of the tracks, according to the resolution.

At least four Treasure Coast cities, as well as the Martin County commissioners, have passed resolutions opposing All Aboard Florida. Indian River County commissioners, who in May 2013 signed a letter of support for the project, rescinded their backing a year later, but have not formally gone on record against it.

That first St. Lucie County resolution also calls on the federal government to reject All Aboard Florida’s application for a $1.5 billion low-interest loan and asks that the railroad be required to pay for quiet zones at road crossings.

Any government financial assistance at less than market rates — whether for infrastructure or right of way work — “would put the risk of the passenger service on the taxpayers,” according to the resolution.

For their part, railroad officials have said corridor upgrades between Miami and Cocoa would include elements that the Federal Railroad Administration would require for any quiet zone it approves. That would reduce the quiet-zone cost for cities and counties, according to All Aboard Florida. In addition, the state’s 2014-15 budget has $10 million available to local communities for quiet-zone projects.

A second resolution on commissioners’ Tuesday agenda addresses the public-comment period on the Federal Railroad Administration’s upcoming draft Environmental Impact Statement. It asks that the comment period be extended from 45 days to 90 days. However, the federal agency in May already extended it from 45 to 75 days, and this week it rejected Gov. Rick Scott’s request for a second extension to 90 days.

The Environmental Impact Statement, which is expected to address many of the issues raised by Treasure Coast residents and governments, likely will be released within two months, according to the Federal Railroad Administration.