Treasure Coast Newspapers: Coast Guard organizing hearings, survey on AAF

Posted on September 9, 2014

The U.S. Coast Guard is looking for input regarding All Aboard Florida’s impact to local waterways and boating.

The agency announced last week it is conducting a survey and organizing a hearing in Stuart on Oct. 3 in relation to the increased closure of rail bridges over the Loxahatchee, St. Lucie, and New Rivers and “to help determine if a change in federal bridge operating regulations should be considered.”

Residents can fill out and mail or email the survey, by Nov. 1. The agency is asking them to describe current and future use of the waterways, especially through movable bridges, the kind of vessels they use and navigation hazards.

The Coast Guard is participating in a document put together by the U.S. Department of Transportation that shows the environmental impacts of the project before considering whether to grant All Aboard a $1.5 billion loan.

The private company plans high-speed passenger-rail service through the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County by 2017. It would run 16 round trips daily as part of Miami-to-Orlando service.

Recreational and commercial boaters, as well as Tequesta Fire-Rescue, are concerned about 32 additional daily bridge closings causing backups on the water and about wear-and-tear on bridges that are nearly 100 years old.

“It is imperative that business owners, boaters, and emergency personnel have their concerns heard so that the Coast Guard may evaluate how best to ensure the continued navigability of our waterways,” said U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, who wrote a letter to the agency in July asking for the hearings.

Two hearings will also happen in Palm Beach Gardens on Oct. 2 and Fort Lauderdale on Oct. 1.