The Palm Beach Post: All Aboard Florida: Northern PBC residents expected to sound off at meeting Tuesday
Posted on May 4, 2015
A group of north county residents is expected to attend the Palm Beach County Commission meeting Tuesday to sound off against All Aboard Florida’s passenger rail project.
County Commissioner Hal Valeche said he expects residents from the Johnathan’s Landing neighborhood, located in an unincorporated area near Jupiter, to address to commissioners at 2 p.m. Tuesday during the meeting’s “Matters by the Public” time slot. At that time, any member of the public is allowed three minutes to speak about any topic, even if it’s not on the agenda.
The commission will not vote on All Aboard Florida, an express passenger rail service linking Miami to Orlando with stops in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The rail company doesn’t need any approvals from Palm Beach County to move forward with its project.
In an email to county officials, Valeche said residents have “very valid concerns with safety as it relates to traveling to Jupiter Medical Center and navigational issues associated with the Loxahatchee River railroad bridge.”
County officials said they expect an All Aboard Florida representative to attend Tuesday’s meeting to address issues raised by residents.
All Aboard Florida plans 32 passenger trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the FEC tracks, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The Miami-to-West Palm Beach service is expected to begin in late 2016, with the Orlando leg starting in 2017.
In October, Jupiter Medical Center officials warned All Aboard Florida’s trains would make it more difficult for emergency crews and ambulance drivers to reach the hospital,creating a public safety hazard for nearby residents and accident victims.
John Couris, president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center, has said the hospital is concerned All Aboard Florida’s plan to add 32 trains a day to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks could delay first responders’ efforts to get critically injured or sick patients to the hospital’s emergency room.
The FEC tracks are just east of Jupiter Medical, which serves as the main emergency center for Tequesta residents. Roughly 20 percent of emergency room patients reach the hospital by ambulance, officials said.
Meanwhile, Martin and Indian River counties have filed suit to block All Aboard Florida’s trains.
Last week, two Palm Beach County residents joined Martin County in a federal lawsuit filed Monday to block All Aboard Florida from getting money it calls a “linchpin” to finishing its express passenger rail line.
Thomas Hewitt, who lives in Jupiter’s Admirals Cove community, and V. Michael Ferdinandi, a Palm Beach Gardens resident in Frenchman’s Reserve, are named plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The 35-page complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, challenges the Department of Transportation’s December approval of $1.75 billion in private activity bonds to All Aboard Florida on two counts: that the tax-exempt bonds were illegally granted before the completion of an environmental impact process, and that the project doesn’t qualify for private activity bonds.