Q&A: All Aboard Florida Responds to Sunshine State News

By: Nancy Smith | Posted: April 18, 2014 3:55 AM
All Aboard Florida

All Aboard Florida, the proposed higher-speed rail service set to operate along Florida East Coast Railway, has erupted in controversy along the Treasure Coast.

The service would connect Miami with Orlando via a roughly 240-mile route north from Miami to Cocoa, where it would turn west toward Orlando. But it would not stop in Martin, St. Lucie or Indian River counties. Residents there say they will get zero benefit while their quality of life is diminished considerably.

They cite more frequent closed rail crossings and the St. Lucie River railroad bridge, more noise from heavier trains, certainly no jobs for local people from the venture -- just cost to local taxpayers and a dangerous disruption of life as they've known it.

Mike Reininger

Mike Reininger

In order to encourage conversation among all stakeholders involved, All Aboard Florida's Michael Reininger, president and chief development officer, and Julie Edwards, chief marketing officer, agreed to answer Sunshine State News' questions in a telephone interview Thursday and in a question-and-answer format.

Here now are eight sets of questions, with answers, SSN posed to these officials:

Q: Do you anticipate an increase in freight on this same line, particularly after the Panama Canal project is completed? And, would you consider leasing CSX tracks for freight traffic, if not for all freight, at least any additional freight traffic?

Julie Edwards

Julie Edwards

A. The state of Florida has made significant infrastructure investments in its ports, which is one of the state’s biggest economic generators. As part of that investment, the state and Florida East Coast Railway have also invested in rail connections to those ports that will allow for the greater mobility of goods and services throughout our region, which creates jobs, delivers products to the consumers and reduces roadway congestion.

Additionally, U.S. DOT, FDOT, Florida East Coast Railway, CSX and the South Florida Regional Transportation Authority have invested in the construction of connecting the South Florida Rail Corridor and the FEC Railway Corridor, which will allow for the movement of freight traffic from the FEC to the South Florida Rail Corridor between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Q: How much time do you anticipate the bridge over the St. Lucie River in Martin County will have to be closed for the current freight load and the added passenger rail service? Local estimates are 9 hours minimum per 14-hour day, without any increase in freight traffic. Do you plan to move more freight during nighttime hours to reduce the number of freight cars during daylight hours?

A: These questions are being addressed as part of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process that’s being led by the Federal Railroad Administration and reviewed by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Q: What is the anticipated speed of passenger trains through Hobe Sound and Stuart? What is the exact decibel level of the train without the whistle? What is the decibel level of its whistle?

A: Track speed for passenger trains ranges from 60-110 mph through Hobe Sound and Stuart, depending on the track geometry. Curves and bridges often dictate lower speeds.

An analysis of train noise and vibrations is included in the EIS. The train horn is within the range of 96-110 decibels by law.

Rusty Roberts

Rusty Roberts

Q: Rusty Roberts, vice president of corporate development at Florida East Coast Industries, said some portions of the track will need to be three-tracks wide. Where are those anticipated to be?

A: There will be limited amounts of triple tracking within the Florida East Coast Railway corridor located by St. Lucie Village and Jonathan Dickinson State Park.

Triple track, like double track, is a series of adjacent mainline tracks built to allow multiple train movements at various speeds and directions. Unlike passing sidings, which are constructed to hold trains that have come to a complete stop, triple track is like an additional lane on a highway built to keep traffic flowing.

Q: When AAF first announced this project, you said it would be a $1.3 billion project, privately funded, yet you have applied for two $600,000,000-plus federally backed loans. That's not private funds, but considering that cost, what is the total cost of the entire project?

A: We have applied for an RRIF loan. This is a federal loan program that is funded and was designed to encourage and support projects precisely like All Aboard Florida that produce significant public benefit, infrastructure improvements and economic development. To date, all of the spending and all of the support for the project has come directly from our own resources.

If an RRIF loan is approved for the project, it will go through a rigorous independent financial analysis and be part of an overall capital structure that includes a very large piece of additional cash investment and collateral of our other hard assets. Any loan must be fully repaid according to the terms of the program by All Aboard Florida. As an entity, our own investment and collateral provides security to the loan. Any returns to us as a company come only after the payments against the loan have occurred, so in that way, our investment is subordinate to the loan. We see no benefit until the loan is covered.

Let me add that the entire initial investment in the legacy company and all of the many millions of dollars spent directly on advancing the project over the past two years have been privately financed. 

Q: In the Stuart-Martin County Chamber of Commerce presentation, Rusty Roberts mentioned that a freight car maintenance facility would be built by AAF as part of the Orlando hub. Why can that not be located in an area on the Treasure Coast instead -- somewhere that would add jobs to the local economy?

A: Miami and Orlando are the two terminal stations of the All Aboard Florida system, meaning that every train starts and ends its day at one of these locations. To minimize deadhead (nonrevenue) train miles, vehicle maintenance facilities for passenger systems are located as close to the system endpoints as possible. Orlando had sufficient land to accommodate the maintenance facility in close proximity to the terminal station, and thus provided the most reasonable location to service and layover the All Aboard Florida passenger train sets.

Q: The sentiment along the Treasure Coast is to stop the project completely. How do you plan to assuage the Treasure Coast's concerns, of which Martin is just one county among at least three with growing local and loud citizen activism? Is there even one benefit to the Treasure Coast that will come out of this project? 

A: We feel fortunate to have received the kind of broad-based support from residents, business leaders and elected officials locally, regionally, across the state and at a national level. The introduction of express rail service into one of the most important economies in the country is an opportunity for Florida to lead in another area vital to growth, and we think the recognition of this is in large part what drives the strong support we are receiving.

The return of passenger rail has been discussed and desired in Florida for decades. The project has had overwhelming support across the state due to the economic impacts in job creation, increased tax revenues, and alternative transportation options for a state exploding in population growth and visitor numbers year after year. As with any important infrastructure improvement of this level, the economic impact and benefits will be felt by cities and communities all along the route as a result of increased mobility, economic activity, job support, tax revenues and the follow-on investment and support that results from the cycle of growth that will be catalyzed through our investment.

Of course an undertaking like this requires a lot of education to make known all the important facets involved. And given the first-of-its-kind nature of this project, the education challenge is made that much bigger. We continue to meet and have direct dialogue with many groups across each of these counties along our route, participating in hundreds of meetings, and working hard to inform everyone about the project. One measure of our effectiveness is the number of requests we have received for future stations from places such as Jacksonville, Tampa and even the Treasure Coast, as the recognition of the potential becomes known.

Q: Will all communities along the route have to pay for their own "quiet zones"?

A: All Aboard Florida continues its unwavering commitment to the safety of our railroad, as well as full compliance with the improvements needed to achieve this level of surety while complying fully with all applicable regulations and laws. Since the project's inception, we have worked in full cooperation with the Federal Railroad Authority (FRA) and the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to determine what is required for the safe operation of this new, first-of-its-kind passenger rail service.

For example, last September, All Aboard Florida announced its commitment to pay for the safety improvements at the grade crossings along our route that will be required for the reintroduction of passenger rail service. This significant investment by All Aboard Florida to pay for the grade crossing safety enhancements allows the local governments to focus on seeking the funds for any additional infrastructure improvements needed to improve the grade crossings to the level of quiet zones.

It is important to note that per federal regulation, the entity with jurisdiction over the road (public agency) that crosses the track can apply for a quiet zone. This includes all municipalities, counties and special districts. Railroads cannot apply because they do not have jurisdiction over the roadway.

* * *

Apart from answering specific questions about Treasure Coast concerns, AAF officials made a point of saying that complaints about the rail project are in the minority up and down the proposed route, and the greater good for Floridians -- in essence, for all Americans -- transcends most of the problems they've seen arise so far. 

"All along the way in the last year we've been sitting down with city planners, city commissioners, everybody involved and we've had tremendous support," said Edwards. "I think it's only a small pocket on the east coast (who oppose it), and we don't want that to overshadow the majority who are fully engaged with what's to come."

Reininger agreed. "These issues (on the Treasure Coast) are largely driven by misinformation and misunderstanding. They represent a very small minority in the overall tenor of what we see and hear every single day."

When asked to give an overview of where All Aboard Florida is today, Reininger insisted the implication of the projects, the positive benefits to the state and even the nation, are mind-boggling.

"Whenever you're undertaking something on the grand scale of this endeavor, there are lots of things you have to deal with on a day to day basis," he said. "But you must never lose sight of the perspective that is central to the mission.

"The fundamental idea here is, we are making a major investment in an infrastructure that will create a stream of benefit, that will immediately impact everybody in the state of Florida in one way or another. We are beginning a cycle of benefit on this investment that is long-lived."

Reininger concluded, "Just think ... this is being done with private investment dollars, which is extremely rare. Before, something like this was only contemplated with full financial support of public dollars. We are achieving the same fundamental goals without that kind of public-sector funding support."

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. 

Comments (43)

Margaret Bloeser
12:43PM OCT 30TH 2014
Will there be a stop in the treasure coast? There needs to be!
3:05PM MAY 10TH 2014
I'm still waiting to hear what the benefits of the train will be to the residents of the Treasure Coast, since there will be no stops in this area
Walter Lee Loftin
11:19AM APR 30TH 2014
I frequently traveled to Florida when it had more passenger rail service and will again when more service returns. We all need more passenger rail service for greater efficiency and safety.
Tony Roberts
8:49AM APR 30TH 2014
Folks, in the Northeast Amtrak electrified 214 miles of railroad between New Haven, CT and Boston, MA back in 2000. Many of the same arguments seen here and in the newspapers were heard by landowners back in the 1990’s. Increased noise, increased train traffic, shortened opening times for draw bridges over several water ways, our way of life, and so on. The project was completed and Amtrak currently runs hourly service on that route. Ridership has increased in this competitive corridor much to the dismay of airline shuttles operating in the Northeast Corridor. Property values have increased due to the improved rail service making it easier and quicker for residents to access major cities for pleasure and commuting. That is the reality!

The railroads were built long before much of this land was developed. Major cities were located where they are today because of the railroads. This project will happen whether you are for it or against it. The community will prosper and have access to an alternative mode of transportation. Many new commuter rail lines have seen the same result after states decided to reactivate abandoned rail beds for commuter service.

The reality is that our fuel costs will continue to increase and the option to travel by rail quickly and efficiently will be enjoyed by many Floridians as Amtrak has proven in the Northeast Corridor.
Haynes McDaniel
6:06AM APR 30TH 2014
How about making one additional passenger stop to each train; Cocoa, Melbourne, Vero Beach and Ft. Pierce (or Port St. Lucie). This would add 5 minutes to the running schedule of each train, and would provide service of 4 trains to each community, in either direction.
We've recently been told that the AAF stations will have airport type security, requiring arrival an hour before train time; why is this (time and expense) necessary, as it's difficult to hijack a train?
Also, why have we not heard about Amtrak service on the FEC, since an agreement was made with Amtrak over 2 years ago?
2:29PM APR 29TH 2014
There is much misinformation present in these comments.
1. The FEC was here first before the roads. In fact the railroad still owns the land under the roads that cross the tracks. In early years many roads were placed across tracks without permission of FEC and state / federal authorities. Now all road crossings require a permit. After so much traffic then the political division might be required to build an overpass ?
Many of you are suffering from past political decisions that allowed developers and political divisions to open a road across tracks without another outlet.
All the train horns you now here is because of past political decisions to allow many roads to cross the tracks.
2. Passenger trains will only block a crossing for about 1 minute. That is less than many of Florida's many 2 - 3 minute traffic light waits. As well equal with a 3 minute freight train wait.
3. Complaints about more / longer trains are ignoring your neighbors that would have to have more truck traffic if the trains cannot carry the freight.. Come on don't be I have mine forget yours.
4. Dedicate the use the taxes that FEC pays to build more overpasses.
5. Any debate that no stations will be built in other locations is premature especially if Amtrak starts service from Jacksonville - Miami along the FEC. Also tri rail service may come along these tracks as well ? If some trains are extended to Jacksonville then more stations are most likely to be built.
6. Improvements to the tracks for the AAF might also speed up freight trains at those locations that are now speed restricted thereby reducing blockage times for freights.
6:11PM APR 24TH 2014
this reads as B. S. from first to last.

We need immediate medical help and fire help here. If they have to wait for a train to pass, life will be lost! We had to wait five minutes for the regular freight train to clear all the signals last night. What would happen if there were dozens of trains every hour?

Why can't we read Charlesor's comments?

They want to run their train on very old tracks which were meant for slow trains? B. S.

This company is subsidized and will be subsidized by the govt. As usual, now-a-days. And, they have a very high stake in the infrastructure improvements going on in the port of Miami from which all sorts of things will be shipped up north on a regular basis. Damn the people, FOLLOW THE MONEY folks. Most people do not know what is going on and these company people rely on that.
5:09PM APR 24TH 2014
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Bright Light
10:30AM APR 21ST 2014
All Aboard Florida says it won't require ongoing subsidies but it will benefit from ongoing subsidies provided by the Seven50 plan which seeks to push consumers to use rail and thus is the reason why All Aboard Florida chose the eastern route and will benefit greatly from
Paul Harrison
4:09PM APR 22ND 2014
Can all of those thinking "Five minute crossing closures? That doesn't make sense! But all these anti-rail people can't be lying if they keep repeating this statement" please read the above and take note. Be aware that TCPalm, one of the newspaper chains (Stuart News, etc) that's been whipping up the hysteria about this and allowing this "fact" to make their papers without contradiction, has people on their staff who routinely post the above link to every forum discussion relating to AAF.

Basically the hysteria is from a bizarre anti-UN group that's convinced itself that trains are part of a (I'm not making this up) plot to force everyone to live in city apartments, bicycle everywhere, and give up our guns.

THAT is the group that's gripped the Stuart News.

THAT is the group that's pushing absurdities like claims that crossings will be closed for five minutes at a time, that emergency services will need rerouting (because they don't bother right now worrying about the risk of freight train crossing closures?), they are the people saying there'll be huge amounts of noise (while demanding no money be spent on implementing quiet zones), and other conspiracy theories about freight rail.

That's why the arguments don't make sense. They're not made in good faith.
6:16PM APR 24TH 2014
I agree with you. The Stuart News and the Palm Beach Post are both in the pocket(s) of the Train folks, just as they are in the progressive pockets. Nothing they "report" makes sense. Opinions, only opinions, and they want to keep their jobs.
Victoria Huggins
2:03PM APR 29TH 2014
Oh my goodness! You all didn't know that Nancy Smith use to be on the editorial staff of TCPalm, specifically the Stuart News? Now I've heard everything!
Bob Webster
2:48PM APR 29TH 2014
She "used to be"? So that discredits her for the rest of her life? How about considering she made a positive change for the better? This kind of attack on an individual for a spurious reason discredits the attacker, not the victim.
Victoria Huggins
5:20PM APR 20TH 2014
Really? Everyone in South Florida "for" AAF? Not according to this SunSentinel piece regarding the price tag for the quiet zones, and those in close proximity to the FEC tracks in Broward and Palm Beach Counties. So who is really "spinning" this into a tall tail? Google the headline: Price tag hits $40 million for quiet zones on FEC railroad in Broward, Palm Beach counties

Maybe AAF staffers should get out and converse with the locals along the tracks, not only those at grade crossings.

I live in St. Lucie County, and though the train tracks are quite some distance from my home, I fail to see the "economic benefit" to the Treasure Coast. I fail to see that AAF will take FRA Safety Recommendations and pay for them. I fail to see jobs created within and along the Treasure Coast. I fail to see this higher-speed train being financially feasible into the future. I fail to see one single car being removed from the Treasure Coast because there is not one stop in which to pick-up passengers. I fail to see one benefit from this high-speed train which will only disrupt and cost US money to make quiet zones for our own safety and then we will have to continue to maintain the crossings for the lifespan of the train. I fail to see the "trickle down economic benefit" for the Treasure Coast. In fact, I see this train costing us MILLIONS well into the future without any benefit whatsoever for the Treasure Coast. AAF going through the Treasure Coast will NOT stop. No stops, no tourists, no jobs, no money funneled into our local economy! It is as simple as that!
Bob Webster
3:07PM APR 29TH 2014

You are wallowing in misinformation.

1. The key issue is AAF compliance with Federal DOT (FRA) regulations for interstate intercity high speed rail that would require "Sealed Corridor" compliance. AAF is an intrastate intercity HSR project and, as such, the interstate requirements are merely "guidelines". However, Florida's DOT can adopt the federal interstate HSR regulations as their own interim regulations while they develop their own HSR regulations. This is a fruitful avenue to follow.

2. Sealed Corridor compliance provides all the costly changes at crossings that are required to have a Quiet Zone crossing. All that need be done if Sealed Corridor requirements are adopted is for the governing body that maintains the roadway crossing request adoption of Quiet Zone designation for the crossing so that trains/crossings do not have to blow a horn. There is a very minimal cost for warning signs for both lanes of the crossing to inform drivers that no horn will be sounded by approaching trains.

3. The contention that AAF trains "will NOT stop" is an assumption that will not be born out. AAF has acknowledged that one or more intermediate stops for 3-4 trains daily (perhaps one early, two near mid-day, and one late) in each direction would not significantly delay the Palm Beach to Orlando timetable and would provide considerable benefit to the affected communities as well as the financial bottom line for AAF. Vero Beach happens to be near the center of the distance between Palm Beach and Orlando (along the AAF route) and is a prime candidate for such a stop. So it is wrong, wrong, wrong to write "No stops, no tourists, no jobs, no money...".

Hysterical opposition will backfire.

Push for Sealed Corridor compliance by asking Florida's DOT to adopt Federal interstate intercity regulations as interim regulations for Florida HSR while Florida's HSR regulations are being developed. This will require AAF to improve the existing corridor to Sealed Corridor standards, thus assuring safety of AAF passengers as well as those using crossings and living near the AAF right of way.
Chris Butler
5:07PM APR 19TH 2014
If you want to know how this will turn out, check out The Simpsons, monorail episode.
Andrea E
3:05PM APR 19TH 2014
I am opposed to the passenger trains as I live within a few hundred feet of the railroad, however, I originally voted against the requirement of a high speed rail system be provided to the residents of Florida that was voted by the voters to be included in our constitution. I feel many of those complaining about this also voted "for" that train. My biggest opposition is I see this being another Digital Domain that filed bankruptcy and walked away with millions of Florida taxpayer dollars. I live in a town that you cannot get out of without crossing the railroad track, which is a major obstacle with a multitude of trains - it is already hard to leave town without delays.
6:29PM APR 24TH 2014
I also live in an area that will be imprisoned once these hi speed railroads are allowed to being their passage through Florida. I have a good friend who doesn't realize that she traverses the train track to get to the next town and that the train track abuts her block at the dead end. As I said above in another "reply" we need immediate help for a medical or a fire emergency-- who can we call on if help is blocked by a passing train? Do we have to shoulder the enormous expense of setting up emergency services east of the railroad tracks?

Most of the local folks I've spoken to do not know enough or anything about these hi speed railroads. They think that the trains will just rush through. These are young"ish" folks who don't think of strokes, heart attacks or fires.
We need MUCH more information to be spread about this horrific travesty by the infamous "1 %" as aided by the very taxing government that most people voted for it seems.
1:54PM APR 29TH 2014
I'll bet you all gripe and moan every time the drawbridge goes up to allow a boat to pass and you get trapped in your beach community. Wah! Everything is somebody else's fault (especially the "rich"), and I need to benefit from everything that happens or I will oppose it. Wah! Wow people, get a life. The highway back to wherever you came from is wide open and you're welcome to go home anytime.
6:29PM APR 24TH 2014
I also live in an area that will be imprisoned once these hi speed railroads are allowed to being their passage through Florida. I have a good friend who doesn't realize that she traverses the train track to get to the next town and that the train track abuts her block at the dead end. As I said above in another "reply" we need immediate help for a medical or a fire emergency-- who can we call on if help is blocked by a passing train? Do we have to shoulder the enormous expense of setting up emergency services east of the railroad tracks?

Most of the local folks I've spoken to do not know enough or anything about these hi speed railroads. They think that the trains will just rush through. These are young"ish" folks who don't think of strokes, heart attacks or fires.
We need MUCH more information to be spread about this horrific travesty by the infamous "1 %" as aided by the very taxing government that most people voted for it seems.
11:24AM APR 19TH 2014
Finally, I'll be able to take the train & not have to park my car or make a connection to do so. Tri-rail the right idea, but the wrong set of tracks. FEC lands me in downtowns along the coast. We need quiet zones as it is, with or without commuter rail.
6:32PM APR 24TH 2014
The trains aren't stopping in all the towns. Only at the beginning and end of the route. No "downtowns" along the way. Where are you going to leave your car? Where will you pick up your next transportation?
Dan McAuliffe
12:51AM APR 19TH 2014
Also, Bob Ladoux from AAF claims that the freight trains will be up to 14,000 feet long. That's over 2.5 miles! How long will it take a 2.5 mile train to cross an intersection?
Paul Harrison
4:13PM APR 22ND 2014
AAF isn't running freight trains. You can stamp your feet as hard as you want, regardless of what you do, the FEC will run additional freight trains if it has the need. It probably will.

The FEC has more than enough capacity to quadruple the amount of freight traffic on its rails. What it doesn't have is the ability to run passenger trains in addition to its existing freight, because passenger trains run faster, and passengers get upset if they stop every 50 miles to allow another train to pass.
1:57PM APR 29TH 2014
In addition to FEC, CSX, Norfolk Southern and other railroads will be running freight trains to deliver goods dropped off at south Florida ports. Want to complain? Contact the ports. Wants jobs? Let them expand.
Dan McAuliffe
12:44AM APR 19TH 2014
Interesting that the question regarding the increase in freight trains was not asked. Trains carrying passengers are just a smoke screen for greatly increased freight shipments. Everyone knows no money will be made on passenger trains. Freight is where there is money to be made. The FECR/PortMiami website describes the ongoing deepening of the PortMiami channel, and the widening of the Panama Canal to be completed next year. According to FECR/PortMiami, next year, for the first time, Mega-Ships from Asia will be docking at PortMiami. This coincides with AAF's 'passenger' train improvements timeline for the additional track, infrastructure upgrades, etc. Also the AAF website claims $0 in taxpayer money will be spent, yet the AAF VP P. Michael Reninger states that the majority of the costs for quiet zones will be covered by AAF. That begs the question: Whom will pay for the minority of the costs for the quiet zones? Answer: The taxpayers!
Paul Harrison
4:03PM APR 22ND 2014
What on Earth makes you think taxpayers shouldn't pay for the quiet zones? Do you think they add a penny to the gas tax when building noise walls next to the Interstate?

And who imposed the horn rule in the first place? Who built substandard grade level crossings over the existing railroad?

And here's a question: who do you think the largest tax payer in most counties the FEC runs through is? I'll give you a clue: they own a very long strip of land, it's about 100ft wide, and about 400 miles long. What does that entity get back for its taxes, other than the "right" to reduce the taxes of the rest of us by reducing the amount of traffic on our roads?
Chris Butler
4:48PM APR 19TH 2014
The question was asked, but the "answer" didn't really provide any info. Typical non answer. This is a bad deal for residents of the TC.
Carolyn L. Myers
4:33PM APR 19TH 2014
It was the first question asked!
Ed Vossen
10:14PM APR 18TH 2014
What a load of crap! Pardon my English but there is no clearer way to express my reaction to this BS.
4:00PM APR 29TH 2014
Wow, that was insightful intelligent objection.
4:52PM APR 18TH 2014
"Any loan must be fully repaid... by All Aboard Florida." But what happens when AAF goes out of business (like Solyndra)? The Feds should demand the $1.5 billion RRIF loan be backed by FECI or better yet Fortress Investment Group which owns both FECI and AAF. Fortress will make a huge profit on the FECI land deals along the new passenger line and then dissolve AAF and leave taxpayers holding the bag.
3:31PM APR 18TH 2014
AAF needs to set out pre-determined stops prior to this project beginning! No one between Orlando and Miami cares about this project because theres no benefit to them and they are the ones who have to deal with the new trains coming and going! You already have the two set points of travel arranged so now before you go any further you need to designate stops along the way so the support can grow and silence the nay-sayers. There is no reason for a person flying into Orlando then taking a train to Miami when they could have flown into Miami in the first place.
David Martin
7:29PM APR 20TH 2014
Orlando International Airport is the city's major transportation center. It already serves at least one inter-city bus line and has high hopes of serving SunRail and several other passenger rail services.

A substantial number of Florida visitors, on business, vacation or some combination, want to visit both the theme parks and Miami (or other parts of the southeast Florida urban blob). At present, air travel is expensive and inconvenient. Red Coach offers bus service from Orlando Internatiional Airport to Miami International Airport.
10:36AM MAY 5TH 2014
That's a Joke, your talking about a distance of over 200 miles and the cost of a hopper flight from Orlando to Miami is the same price when it comes to traveling down there via train or car. People who come to Orlando, come for mainly family events and visiting reiteratives, businessmen, etc,. People going to Miami are going for the total opposite, cruises, the Keys and night life on the beach. By majority they have nothing in common
2:09PM APR 18TH 2014
I am interested in railroads (where appropriate). I recommend to all the website of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel. It IS, as they claim, "an engineering marvel", and it was built thru the sale of revenue bonds. No local, state, or federal tax monies were used in its construction. (The only problem with it is, that given the population densities of the areas it serves, it should NOT have been built.) But it is amazing! Go see it.
Paul Harrison
8:25AM APR 18TH 2014
Yes, there's opposition on the Treasure Coast, but given the fact local media have been whipping up hysteria about the subject, with "he said, she said" type treatment of bizarre myths like the "Each passenger train will close every crossing for FIVE MINUTES" (what, the passenger trains are a mile long?!) stuff, that's not surprising.

Local media are not doing their job. They're marginalizing those of us who support the project because even though we don't get a station, we almost certainly get quiet zones, we get lower I-95/Turnpike traffic, lower road subsidies, more tax revenues, and, in South Florida in general, more (real) jobs, in favor of groups like the bizarre far right "American Coalition 4 Property Rights" which opposes AAF because they appear to think it's a UN plot (I'm not making this up.) Not that the Stuart News would report that part, of course...

Reininger is right. I'm glad to see AAF sticking up for themselves. I'm disappointed to see Rep. Patrick Murphy come out against the project and side with the conspiracy theorists. I guess I'll have a difficult decision this November when it's time to vote.
Dan McAuliffe
12:54AM APR 19TH 2014
Bob Ladoux from AAF claims that the freight trains will be up to 14,000 feet long. That's over 2.5 miles! How long will it take a 2.5 mile train to cross an intersection?
Paul Harrison
9:10AM APR 23RD 2014
AAF isn't running Freight Trains. And no passenger trains in the world are 2.5 miles long.

And before you peddle the bizarre conspiracy story (yet again!) that AAF is some plot to steal all our monies to put more freight on the FECs, perhaps you can explain how double tracking the existing line to Cocoa, building three giant passenger stations, building a highspeed line to Orlando airport, leasing an airport passenger rail facility there, buying a fleet of passenger trains, and doing high speed passenger rail related safety improvements to every crossing between Miami and Cocoa (what I've described here is what all the investment in AAF will pay for, nothing more, nothing less) will help the FEC handle more freight?

At best, if FEC traffic were to increase more than four fold (yes, it could handle, without new infrastructure, a quadrupling of traffic) you might see double tracking as a possible useful improvement. That's about it. That's a small fraction of the cost of the AAF project. FEC traffic is not expected to quadruple any time soon.

To answer your question: at 60mph, a 2.5 mile train will pass an intersection in 2.5 minutes.
Anne Sinnott
11:43AM APR 18TH 2014
AAF seems so desperate to push its hazardous plan even though the "Federal Railroad Administration Diagnostic Safety Review of Florida East Coast railway grade crossings from Miami-Dade to St. Lucie Counties" calls AAF at-grade crossings and addition of tracks substandard and '"potentially catastrophic" (page7)
It seems the only support AAF is getting from the public is from its own and other railways professionals, such as Mr. Paul Harrison..
Paul Harrison
1:01PM APR 18TH 2014
Hate to disappoint you but I'm not affiliated with AAF, I'm not a railroad professional, just a Treasure Coast resident who isn't an idiot and who's been following this project from the beginning.

Nobody in their right mind thinks AAF is going to go ahead with an unsafe railroad. The FRA report you cite (badly - the AAF hasn't laid any tracks so how can they be substandard?) is part of the process of making sure it'll be safe. Yes, I'm aware of how it's been presented in the local media. The local media has also made such obviously false statements as claiming the FRA is powerless to act and has no jurisdiction over this part of the project. In fact, the entire existing FEC line is 100% under FRA jurisdiction, the FRA has only waived it for the new stretch between Cocoa and Orlando (which will be grade separated anyway.)

Every single part of this project has been misrepresented by its critics:

- A loan is being presented as a subsidy
- a likely sub-30 second (and at worst one minute) crossing closure time per train is being described as "five minutes" of disruption per train
- Apparently Stuart boaters are going to be severely inconvenienced by the increased number of trains... despite the fact the rail bridge is right next to a road drawbridge that's down by default. Really? REALLY? This is what you're claiming about?
- "Our property values will suffer because of increased horn noise"... except they won't, because local authorities will finally have to implement quiet zones - as long as you don't ban them from doing so! (And yes, they have the money, the FEC's property taxes are going to double as a result of this.)

One of the loudest anti-rail groups in the Treasure Coast (American Coalition 4 Property Rights) is even claiming that the entire thing is a conspiracy by the United Nations to force everyone to live in urbanized areas and give up their guns. I wish, however ridiculous that sounds, that I was making that up.

Once upon a time whenever a train proposal came up, after everyone had done their home work and figured out that spending $X on the train would result in $Y in savings in terms of not having to expand highways and increased revenues close to stations, rail opponents would come out of the woodwork claiming that, "tsk, tut, they really don't want to oppose rail but... well, tsk, should the government really be "subsidizing" this? I mean, yeah sure it kinda looks like you'd be better off, but, well what if your figures were wrong? Really it's better for trains to subsidize highways... uh, we mean, make a profit, and the government really shouldn't..." and then the project would be killed and there'd be no train.

And I was foolish enough to believe them. But let's be honest here. We now know that everyone who made that case was not telling the truth.
Paul Harrison
1:12PM APR 18TH 2014
Apologies for repeating some of the points I made earlier. Lack of sleep!
Carolyn L. Myers
12:24PM APR 18TH 2014
I am NOT a railroad professional just an ordnary Florida taxpayer and I am happy and excited to see this passenger rail line coming to us. Everybody loves railroads except the nimbys.

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