The Sun Sentinel: Delray Beach sounds off concerns about All Aboard Florida

Posted on May 7, 2015

Delray Beach‘s city leaders say they are not hopping on board with All Aboard Florida.


The new proposed train line plans to provide passenger service from Miami to Orlando with 32 trains running daily, 16 trains in each direction. The timeline shows service beginning in 2016.


Delray commissioners put their thoughts on the rail line on the record late Tuesday.


While their comments may be largely symbolic with construction of the project already underway in some cities, Delray officials said they can’t support the project unless several concerns involving financing, public safety and environmental impacts are addressed.


Representatives from All Aboard Florida gave Delray officials their best sales pitch on how the service will connect South Florida and Central Florida for both business people and tourists. But the details weren’t compelling enough for commissioners to support the project.


“We aren’t going to receive any benefit from a train speeding through our town,” Commissioner Shelly Petrolia told All Aboard Florida representatives.


As the plans stand, the locomotives will have service stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. There aren’t any proposals for planned stops in downtown Delray Beach.


Commissioners said it is hard for them to sell the idea of All Aboard Florida to residents because they don’t have the answers to several important questions, including how much a ticket will cost.


All Aboard Florida spokeswoman Ali Soule said pricing has not been made public yet, but she said the company is working on different rates.


“It’s not something that we are looking to keep secret,” she said. “It’s something that we are in the process of developing.”


Another sticking point for Delray commissioners is who is footing the bill to bring so-called “quiet zones” to Delray’s railroad crossings.


Quiet zones silence noisy train horns that currently must sound when trains go through most crossings.

They do so by adding enough safety features to warn people not cross the train tracks, without the need of a train horn. Some ways to accomplish that include adding exit gates.


Once the quiet zones are in place, trains will only have to sound their horns for emergencies, such as when vehicles or pedestrians are on the tracks.


Delray wants All Aboard Florida to pay for all quiet zones within the city.


Currently, Palm Beach County‘s Metropolitan Planning Organization has plans to use federal tax money to pay for exit gates required to become a quiet zone and improvements to make crossings safer for pedestrians.


Director of the Metropolitan Planning Organization Nick Uhren said that about $1.25 million in federal taxes have been allocated to pay for the improvements.


Commissioner Mitch Katz said he would like to see All Aboard Florida pay for the quiet zones, so the federal tax money can be spent on other needed improvements.


All Aboard Florida representatives say the project is 100 percent privately funded even though federal tax money is being used for the quiet zones. Legally, Soule said, All Aboard Florida is not required to pay for quiet zones in the project.

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