Vero Beach to consider opposing entire All Aboard project

Publish Date: 
Friday, October 17, 2014 - 7:00am

By James Kirley TCPalm

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VERO BEACH — City officials are poised to end their piecemeal opposition to All Aboard Florida’s proposed high-speed rail passenger service through town and are drafting a new resolution that will instead mirror Indian River County’s emphatic opposition to the whole project.

“The city opposes the railroad coming through,” Mayor Richard Winger said Wednesday, two days after a joint meeting of City Council and its High-Speed Rail Commission approved joining forces with the county.

The new resolution, which could come before City Council as soon as Nov. 4, is expected to go beyond the Vero Beach’s May 6 resolution. That older effort asked federal and state agencies to require All Aboard Florida to pay all costs associated with impacts on local communities from 16 daily round-trips between Orlando and Miami, at speeds up to 110 miles per hour and no stops north of West Palm Beach; and to have the rail project privately funded instead of with a $1.6 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Sebastian also passed a resolution April 9, demanding that all Aboard Florida, a sister company to the Florida East Coast Railway, pay for crossing improvements. Sebastian also is now considering a stronger resolution.

County Commission Chairman Peter O’Bryan said the focus of these latest efforts is to have all three of the largest governments in the county speaking with one voice. The county’s Oct. 7 resolution “emphatically opposes All Aboard Florida.”

“If you look at the individual resolutions,” O’Bryan said, “It was all little bits and pieces.

“Now we’re saying, ‘We don’t care what they (All Aboard Florida) mitigate, we don’t care what they offer. We just want to shoot this thing and kill it.’”

The county’s resolution is being sent to all state and federal elected officials representing the Treasure Coast, as well as federal transportation officials.

Winger said leadership is now required to band together local communities in their opposition. He said any push against All Aboard Florida needs to be a regional effort.

“It’s like the (Indian River) lagoon,” Winger said. “Does it someday get pulled together with enough force to make something happen?”

That will be outlined in a “memorandum of understanding” also being drafted by Vero Beach staff.

Sebastian, Indian River County and Vero Beach will now “have an understanding that we are going to exchange information and work together,” City Manager Jim O’Connor said.

Nor is government working alone against the rail expansion proposal. Several citizen groups opposed to the plan have formed along the Treasure Coast and are working under an umbrella group calling itself the Train Impact Coalition.

Honey Minuse, who chairs the executive committee of the Indian River Neighborhood Association, said the coalition’s most important job is to pull together “local knowledge” of how the railroad would impact communities. This knowledge would be part of comments made on the project’s draft environmental impact statement.

“I see the three governments working together on the political front to voice the concerns of the citizens,” Minuse said. “The local knowledge and the language of the EIS are very different.”

IF YOU GO

The Federal Railroad Administration will hold three public hearings on the Treasure Coast, soliciting comment on the draft environmental impact statement for All Aboard Florida’s planned high-speed rail passenger service between Orlando and Miami. The meetings on the Treasure Coast are:

3:30-7 p.m. Oct. 30 at the Kane Center, 900 SE Salerno Road, Stuart

3:30-7 p.m. Nov. 5 at the Indian River State College Mueller Center, 6155 College Lane, Vero Beach

3:30-7 p.m. Nov. 6 at the Port St. Lucie Civic Center, 9221 S.E. Civic Center Place, Port St. Lucie.