The Palm Beach Post: St. Lucie County officials defer All Aboard Florida vote on crossing agreements

Posted on September 16, 2014

By: Kim Miller

The St. Lucie County Board of County Commissioners begrudgingly deferred a vote on a crossing agreement with All Aboard Florida this morning that county staffers had recommended they oppose.

All Aboard Florida, which plans to run 32 trains per day on the FEC tracks between Miami and Orlando, asked for the vote to be postponed so that updated information on costs to maintain the crossings _ the burden of local municipalities _ and other issues can be attained.

St. Lucie County commission members adopted a resolution earlier this year opposing the All Aboard Florid project, and some said this morning they weren’t keen on postponing today’s vote.

“I find it disingenuous that we are being asked to delay when one entity is being asked to move forward on something favorable to All Aboad Florida,” said commissioner Tod Mowery, referring to a decision by the City of West Palm Beach on Monday to allow All Aboard Florida to close two downtown streets to make room for a station. “I don’t know anyone who has found a solid reason to support this.”

All Aboard Florida, which will have stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando, is facing stiff opposition from Treasure Coast counties that complain they will suffer the inconvenience of increased train traffic, without the benefit of a stop to generate economic development.

All Aboard Florida is being required by the state to improve safety equipment to a standard that will allow for quiet zones _ areas where the trains don’t have to blow their horns at crossings.

St. Lucie officials are wary of the increased costs in maintaining crossings that will have more equipment, such as four-quadrant gates, and, as noted in an August 22 letter from Public Works Director Don West, the agreement makes no mention of the quiet zone requirements. St. Lucie County has nine crossings it is responsible for.

The crossing agreement was drafted in June, prior to the July announcement by the state department of transportation that All Aboard Florida will have to pay for quiet zone upgrades.

“I will not support going forward with spending taxpayer monies to support a private entity,” said commissioner Chris Dzadovsky. “They are going after a $1.6 billion loan from the federal government. Well, that should be put into their cost of doing business.”

West said the cost to maintain the current crossings is about $275,000.

“All Aboard Florida needs to provide the county with more information about anticipated improvement costs and maintenance costs,” West wrote. “There needs to be a better understanding of what costs will be borne by All Aboard Florida, and what constitutes safety improvements.”

The impact of a vote against the crossing agreement is unclear. In late December, All Aboard Florida sent all municipalities and counties that have crossings a similar agreement, West said. That agreement expired 60 days from its offering and was not signed by any Palm Beach County or Treasure Coast governments.

The crossing agreement was put on the board’s Oct. 21 agenda.

“Either the information is going to become available or it’s not and I don’t want to be back here in November and December with another extension request,” said Commission Chairwoman Frannie Hutchinson.

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