The TC Palm: Malfunctioning railroad crossings put damper on Sebastian’s All Aboard Florida open house

Posted on October 16, 2014

By Janet Begley

SEBASTIAN — Some trying to get to Sebastian’s All Aboard Florida open house Wednesday were late arriving — because railroad crossings were closed for several hours thanks to track problems in North County.

Even Rusty Roberts, vice president of corporate development for All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, was delayed by the closed crossings, which he said were caused by a malfunctioning switch light.

Tracks reopened about 4 p.m., allowing more than 100 people to attend the open house to express opinions about the high-speed rail project, which would connect Miami and Orlando with 16 trains on daily round trips and stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.

City Manager Joe Griffin and City Engineer Frank Watanabe met with residents to talk about the federal draft Environmental Impact Statement. The public comment period on the report ends Dec. 3, and Griffin and Watanabe asked the public to put their comments in writing to be included with the city’s response.

“The only way your concerns will be addressed by All Aboard Florida is through the written process,” Watanabe said. “We will scan all of your comments in, add in the city’s response and submit them to All Aboard Florida.”

Watanabe said he believes the report released by the Federal Railroad Administration has “a lot of flaws” in it.

“I believe there is almost a 100 percent chance that there will be another document released after the comments are received,” Watanabe said. “There are a lot of deficiencies in the original report. This is your opportunity to point those things out.”

Sebastian resident Maureen Mathewson said her comments are regarding emergency services and traffic.

“The two hospitals in this county are on the east side and most of the residents are on the west side,” Mathewson said. “When you’re lying in an ambulance and you can’t cross the tracks, it’s a terrible situation.”

She added that All Aboard Florida could cause traffic delays, similar to the one experienced Wednesday afternoon by people trying to reach City Hall.

“Frankly to Sebastian, there’s absolutely no benefit at all to the train,” Mathewson said.

Karen Christiansen from Sebastian walked several blocks to submit her comments about All Aboard Florida at the open house when she learned the tracks were closed.

“I think it’s going to have a negative impact on our safety and our quality of life,” Christiansen said.

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