The Palm Beach Post – Why won’t All Aboard Florida attend information meeting this week?
Posted on December 9, 2014
By Kimberly Miller
The Economic Forum of Palm Beach County’s discussion topic this month is All Aboard Florida, the express passenger train service that is planned to run from Miami to Orlando on the FEC tracks.
The meeting had already garnered 100 affirmative RSVPs as of Thursday, a noteworthy amount for the holiday season, said forum President Rebel Cook.
But All Aboard Florida said it will not attend.
“Due to scheduling conflicts and a formatting change, All Aboard Florida representatives are unable to participate in next week’s discussion,” the company said Friday in a statement.
Cook said the formatting change that All Aboard Florida mentions is the addition of Tequesta Mayor Abby Brennan and Jupiter Inlet District Chairman George Gentile to the panel of speakers.
Both have been vocal with their concerns about the addition of 32 trains per day on tracks that run through several downtowns and over aging drawbridges. When lowered for the trains, the drawbridges block boat traffic.
“Initially (All Aboard Florida) asked for the program to present the project,” Cook said. “We agreed, but not on the condition that they be the only ones there.”
All Aboard Florida has proven a divisive project, with counties getting a station stop mostly in favor of the plan, while those that will only see the additional train traffic opposed. The train will stop in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach between Miami and Orlando.
Trains are expected to run at speeds between 79 mph and 110 from Miami to Cocoa and then 125 mph west to Orlando. Construction has already begun on the Miami to West Palm Beach route, which is scheduled for completion in late 2016.
Cook said the Economic Forum tries to bring all elements of an issue to the table for its members, but that All Aboard Florida said it didn’t want to “debate” an elected official.
“I said ‘this is not a debate, there is no debate,’” Cook said. “We don’t endorse, we’re an education forum for the business community,” she said.
All Aboard Florida has not shied from meeting with the public. An application for $1.75 billion in Private Activity Bonds submitted in September says it has attended more than 700 public meetings since announcing the project in 2012.