The TC Palm: National limelight shines on boaters’ All Aboard Florida concerns

Posted on February 9, 2015

Eve Samples

Marine-minded opponents of All Aboard Florida have been painted as a bunch of well-to-do, parochial naysayers who care more about their next sunset cruise than the future of transportation.


That’s part of the reason politicians have gotten away with sidelining their concerns.


No longer.


Now the boaters are being taken seriously by a national audience.


The latest issue of Boat U.S. Magazine — which circulates to more than half a million members of the Boat Owners Association of the United States — details risks the passenger rail service would impose on boaters from Fort Lauderdale to Stuart.


The magazine’s headline, positioned above a large photo of the St. Lucie River railroad bridge: “This train to Disney won’t amuse boaters.”


Below it: “Train traffic is about to boom in Florida, creating a safety hazard and obstructions for the hundreds of boats a day needing bridge openings between Miami and Orlando.”


Imagine you’re a soon-to-retire boater who lives in the North.


Now imagine how this article would influence your choice of retirement destinations.


The three-page magazine spread details the logjams anticipated on the New River in Fort Lauderdale, the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter and the St. Lucie River in Stuart, all of which are traversed by aging railroad drawbridges with low clearance.


More trains means more bridge closures.


“This will result in much longer queues at bascule bridges that already have traffic issues, and more difficult situations for boats under tow and in queues,” reported the writer, Nicole Palya Wood, a member of the Boat U.S. government affairs team.


If you’re not a boater, you might wonder why this is a big deal. Automobile drivers wait for drawbridges all the time. But, unlike cars, boats are vulnerable to currents and tides.


As a towboat operator in Pompano Beach said of the New River bridge: “We only have about 30 minutes of slack water, four times a day, when the tide is neither pulling you out of, nor pushing you into, the bridge.”


That window would narrow after All Aboard Florida adds its planned 32 passenger trains a day.


This national publicity will hurt our region’s image as a boating mecca.


It also could signal a tipping point.


Remember, the water-quality crisis in the Indian River Lagoon didn’t get serious attention from power brokers until it made national and international news.


If there’s one thing politicians respond to, it’s limelight.

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