All Aboard Florida project doesn't benefit every community

Posted on April 14, 2016

It's easy to say that adding trains in Florida will improve our state's mobility. It's far more difficult to say that the All Aboard Florida project will benefit everyone.

But that's just what the chambers of commerce in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and the Palm Beaches would like people to believe — and it's simply not true.

To say that the passenger rail service will generate economic activity and reduce traffic congestion blatantly ignores the hundreds of thousands of people and businesses along the Treasure Coast who would be negatively impacted by this project.

The railroad, as proposed, threatens to clog traffic and waterways and endanger public safety in communities throughout the Treasure Coast. It would cause delays for ambulances, police and other first responders and create safety risks for pedestrians, school buses and other vehicles crossing the rail tracks. It would also erode the area's property values and hurt our quality of life.

This isn't a "not in my back yard" issue, as some would like to portray it. Concerns of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida are shared by a broad-based group of elected and community leaders, residents, public safety officials, school board members and business owners across the region.

Unlike their counterparts to the south, the Treasure Coast Chambers of Commerce — the Stuart/Martin Chamber of Commerce, the Indian River County Chamber of Commerce and the St. Lucie Chamber of Commerce — have appropriately taken a neutral position. They know that delays and congestion near railroad crossings will hurt local businesses, not help them. They recognize that efforts to benefit some communities shouldn't come at the expense of their neighbors and small businesses that will be negatively impacted by the project.

All Aboard Florida, which has rebranded itself as Brightline, plans to run 32 passenger trains a day from Miami to Orlando starting in late 2017. They'll whiz through small towns at more than 100 miles per hour, causing crippling delays and endangering anyone in their path. It won't stop in the Treasure Coast — it is all pain and no gain for our communities.

Florida businesses need to back projects that unify the state, not divide it. Hurting some businesses to help others ultimately doesn't add jobs or strengthen our economic outlook. Collaborative, smart solutions to our infrastructure challenges are the way to make our great state even better. Ill-conceived projects jammed through despite the reasonable concerns of our local communities like All Aboard Florida aren't.

Brent Hanlon, of Jupiter, is chairman of CARE FL Steering Committee.

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