Palm Beach Post: Anti-rail group challenges denial of public subsidies to All Aboard Florida

Posted on July 10, 2014

By Kim Miller

The newly-formed Citizens Against Rail Expansion is challenging the stance taken by All Aboard Florida and Gov. Rick Scott that no public money is involved in creating the express passenger rail, questioning municipal costs for crossings and millions given to the Orlando International Airport.

“We, and almost everyone in the state believe the $200+ million the Administration has pledged to finance the railroad hub at Orlando International Airport amounts to a state subsidy for All Aboard Florida,” the group wrote today in a letter to Ananth Prasad, secretary for the Florida Department of Transportation. “While we understand that the Orlando terminal may ultimately serve as a transportation hub for multiple public and privately-financed trains, the $200+ million in state funding will directly and exclusively benefit AAF, unless and until public funding is finalized for other projects.”

Citizens Against Rail Expansion, or CARE, includes several affluent communities in northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast that fear the impact of All Aboard Florida’s plans to run 32 trains per day from Miami to Orlando on the FEC tracks.

Today’s letter addresses a lack of state law regulating trains traveling faster than 79 mph, requests the release of an engineering field report on the safety of crossings between Indian River County and Cocoa, and detailed information about the drawbridges used by boaters to access the ocean.

It also expresses a prevalent concern among the opposition to All Aboard Florida that $214 million in taxpayer dollars have already been dedicated to the project to create the hub at Orlando International Airport.

The Florida Department of Transportation attempted to dispel the question in June, saying the facility at the airport has been in the planning since the 1990s and would be built regardless of whether All Aboard Florida comes to fruition.

Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida adds to grassroots efforts that had preceded it, such as Florida NOT All Aboard. It has developed a strategic plan and raised money to obtain legal counsel to respond to an Environmental Impact Statement, which has yet to be released.

The letter comes as All Aboard Florida sent out a second round of statements today supporting the project.

“I look forward to the completion of the multi-modal facility at the Orlando International Airport, which, when finished, will provide multiple transportation options to both residents and visitors,” said U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, in a statement released by AAF. “I will continue to work with all of the federal agencies involved to ensure the All Aboard Florida project receives the support necessary to complete the full system from Miami to Orlando.”

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