Martin County Proposal:
You may have heard or read about Martin County’s proposal that AAF use their existing westerly route, the K Branch, to move the passenger trains away from the county. As it turns out, FEC does own the K Branch which moves northwest from Palm Beach to Lake Okeechobee and then back to the northeast through St. Lucie County intersecting there with the coastal route. This branch was totally ignored by AAF in its Environmental Impact Study route analysis and Martin County is correct in suggesting that this was a deliberate omission by the railroad. After we had a chance to study the report, we prepared and presented the attachedinformation at the Sept. 20 Martin County commissioners’ meeting. As we said, “This proposal reinforces the fact that AAF trains and Hazardous Materials freight should be transported west of the entire Treasure Coast where the population is far less dense, there are far fewer at-grade crossings and the impact to waterways and boat navigation would be greatly reduced.”
The proposal is a bit controversial throughout the region since it would greatly reduce the dangerous threats to residents of the county, particularly in Stuart, by reducing the number of at-grade crossings. However, it would increase the number of crossings in Ft. Pierce and obviously impact a number of communities in St. Lucie County as it cuts diagonally back to the coast. Once again this issue brings to the fore the totally lacking and in some cases fraudulent EIS prepared by AAF and approved by the US DOT. Indian River County’s legal team is making this same case in its efforts to challenge AAF’s request for a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Permits and Legal Battles:
In response to the DC District Court judge’s ruling in August that the counties have standing and the US DOT must release requested documents on their approval of the PAB bonds to Indian River County, the US DOT on September 20th FINALLY released its Administrative Record on the $1.75 Billion in PABs. The DOT and AAF also filed responses to Martin and Indian River County’s original complaints.
Fighting for What’s Right:
As we mentioned earlier, Commissioner Haddox was a true warrior in the fight against government over-reach. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Seven – 50 Southeast Florida planning project, Seven Counties - 50 years, it was somewhat of a precursor to All Aboard Florida. Central planners from the southern counties were using fed grant money to tell us how to develop our counties for the next 50 years. Their plan called for Transit Oriented Development along the coast, confining housing and road development to a narrow corridor along the FEC route…interesting, eh?
Fortunately, that was just a federal grant being shoved down our throats and we could lobby the counties to opt out. Unfortunately, those same planners are now backed by Goliath/Fortress and the battle isn’t so easy.
The Sad Truth about Trains…
If someone asks you why you’re so concerned about AAF adding 32 trains per day and FEC doubling its freight traffic and adding even more dangerous chemicals to the cargo, please suggest they turn on the national news or google ‘train accidents’ and see what we’re talking about. We don’t want to dwell on the negative or use others’ misfortunes to further our cause, but the facts speak for themselves.
The Federal Railroad Administration’s statistics on train accidents, incidents and related deaths for just the first six months of this year January 1 – July 31, 2016include the following:
- Total Train Accidents/Incident: 6,038
- Total Train Accidents: 880
- No. of Fatal Accidents: 4
- Total Fatalities: 7
- No. of Fatal Crossing Incidents: 154
- Total Fatalities: 174
- Total Trespassing Incidents: 1,122
- Total Trespassing Fatalities: 306
- No. of Accidents resulting in the release of Hazardous Materials: 7
- Rail cars releasing Haz Mat: 13
Regardless of equipment upgrades or promised new rail technology, time and again we’re finding that rail transport is dangerous and when you mix passengers at high speeds with Hazardous Materials on the same corridor – massive disasters can AND WILL happen. We must do everything we can to stop this expansion of rail traffic through our coastal communities.
We’ve had major victories this summer and with your help, we’ll have even more. The word is finally getting out but we must keep the good news flowing –
It’s NOT a done deal!
No Money, No Trains!