The Palm Beach Post: Communities prep to fight All Aboard Florida
Posted on February 17, 2015
Treasure Coast communities are weighing a multi-million-dollar fight against All Aboard Florida with at least two county officials proposing action this week.
Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari said today that he will request that his board set aside 1 percent of its budget _ approximately $2.7 million _ to oppose All Aboard Florida’s plan to run 32 trains per day on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks between Miami and Orlando.
The Indian River board meets Tuesday.
Martin County Commissioner John Haddox said he will also ask for the 1 percent allocation at a Tuesday meeting, which will amount to about $1.4 million.
Neither of the requests are written as formal agenda items, but Haddox and Solari said they received dozens of emails supporting the planned actions.
“I think everyone on the board realizes this could potentially destroy our community,” Solari said. “The counties need to step up and get more aggressive.”
All Aboard Florida, a Coral Gables-based subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, has already begun construction on its Miami to West Palm Beach route, including work on building stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
But the company is seeking $1.75 billion in private activity bonds to pay for the West Palm Beach to Orlando leg, and is also awaiting a review by the Federal Railroad Administration of a draft environmental impact state released in the fall.
While All Aboard Florida is focused on completing the Miami to Orlando project, it said it will consider more station stops in the future.
“We remain open to future expansion opportunities that will attract more customers to our service,” the company said in a statement. “The Space Coast recently initiated a site analysis study to identify a single station location that will be supported by the region’s elected officials, business and community leaders, and residents. We support that vision and encourage the Treasure Coast to focus their resources on a similar process.”
Communities from Northern Palm Beach County through the Treasure Coast are protesting the planned trains, saying they will increase traffic jams at crossings, delay boaters at drawbridges that must close when trains approach, and diminish property values.
Martin County has already approved spending $60,000 in December to study All Aboard Florida’s effect on property values with more than $1 billion of land and homes sitting within 400 feet of the tracks. In May, Indian River commissioners approved spending up to $100,000 to hire an attorney familiar with environmental reports to advise them on the impact study.
“We’ve been examining all of the negative impacts, and I thought this was a very opportune time to bring up allocating funding to oppose it,” Haddox said about his planned request Tuesday for the $1.4 million.
“I believe that All Aboard Florida will have a huge negative impact on our quality of life and our economy.”