The Palm Beach Post: Martin County hospital officials oppose All Aboard Florida plan

Posted on October 9, 2014

By Jennifer Sorentrue

Martin County hospital officials have joined a growing number of groups raising safety concerns about  All Aboard Florida’s plan to run 32 passenger trains a day along the Florida East Coast Railway Track could result in traffic jams, delaying the amount of time it takes residents to reach emergency rooms.

In an Oct. 2 letter to members of a coalition of residents fighting All Aboard Florida’s plan, Miguel Coty, Vice President of Marketing Communications for Martin Health Systems said the express passenger rail project could result in traffic jams, delaying the amount of time it takes residents to reach emergency rooms.

“All Aboard Florida has yet to demonstrate how it will minimize disruption in downtown Stuart and areas around our facilities, and mitigate safety issues related to the substantial increase in rail traffic through the town,” Coty wrote. “We believe All Aboard Florida must work closer with local officials in each of our communities to ensure that response times for emergency vehicles are not negatively impacted and to mitigate any other potential issues.”

On Tuesday, John Couris, president and CEO of Jupiter Medical Center, said the hospital is concerned All Aboard Florida’s project 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.

Couris was among local leaders and elected officials who spoke out against All Aboard Florida at a news conference held Tuesday by Citizens Against Rail Expansion, or CARE, a coalition of Treasure Coast and Jupiter residents opposed to All Aboard Florida’s project.

In his letter to members of CARE, Coty said the hospital would continue to oppose the project until questions about its impact on emergency response times are addressed.

Coty said a study must be completed to evaluate a series of issues, including: whether there are any railroad crossings that don’t have an alternative route for emergency vehicles; the potential for extended train breakdowns and accidents; and the likelihood that an emergency responder will be stopped for a train.

In response to Tuesday’s press conference, All Aboard Florida released the following statement:

“The Draft Environmental Impact Statement published by the Federal Railroad Administration states the project will have an ‘overall beneficial effect on public health, safety and security.’

All Aboard Florida will add two passenger trains an hour. Each train will be approximately 900’ in length and take less than 50 seconds to clear an intersection. We are upgrading every grade crossing and installing new signalization and Positive Train Control, which will result in decreased wait times at grade crossings and increased efficiencies.

As is the case around the nation — and in South Florida where more than 50 TriRail trains operate on the South Florida Rail Corridor — we will work with emergency personnel to conduct joint trainings, ensure impacts are minimized and coordination occurs at every level.”

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