Palm Beach Post: All Aboard Florida to meet with opposition group

Posted on August 28, 2014

By John Kennedy and Jennifer Sorentrue – Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

TALLAHASSEE — All Aboard Florida officials said Thursday that they plan to meet with a coalition of Treasure Coast and Jupiter communities opposed to the company’s express passenger train service.

The announcement came hours after members of the group, Citizens Against Rail Expansion, met with Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad and representatives of Gov. Rick Scott’s office to discuss their concerns with the rail project. Bill Ward, chairman of the opposition group, said state officials agreed to urge All Aboard Florida to meet with the coalition.

The private company is developing the rail project linking Miami to Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. Ward said the coalition had been rebuffed by train officials when it sought a meeting on safety and other issues.

“We want to know more about how this increase in passenger and freight traffic is going to affect our first responders and our hospitals,” Ward said, adding, “Also marine issues. Boater safety and the backup at bridges.”

In a statement released Thursday, All Aboard Florida said officials previously met with members of the coalition and would schedule a meeting with the group “in the coming weeks.”

“We remain open to meeting with anyone who would like to discuss our project, and we encourage these groups to also contact the agency leading the process if they have technical questions,” the statement said. “As we’ve said previously, we believe many of the fears and misconceptions will be allayed when the draft (environmental impact statement) is published, which we hope is very soon.”

All Aboard Florida plans to run 32 passenger trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway 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.

An environmental impact statement addressing the effect the project could have on areas north of West Palm Beach has yet to be released.

The coalition requested a meeting with Scott’s office last month because in South Florida, “our issues were not being addressed,” Ward said. The group has said it is concerned the proposed rail line could harm public safety, lead to traffic congestion and cause problems for the marine industry.

“We are frustrated with the lack of answers we are getting,” Ward said.

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