All Aboard Florida is a complex project that has raised questions of concern to Treasure Coast residents.
Those questions include:
- 1. Will 32 daily AAF passenger trains create massive traffic congestion that interrupts Treasure Coast residents’ daily activities?
A look at the figures is surprising. Daily rail crossing closures for both AAF and Florida East Coast Railway trains will be 12 percent less than what it was for freight trains alone in 2006, when freight traffic was heavier.
If emergency vehicles were not adversely affected by FEC trains in 2006, they will not be in 2017 when AAF is operational.
- 2. Will AAF make railroad crossings more dangerous?
Florida’s Department of Transportation has required AAF “to comply with the Federal Railroad Administration’s guidelines for rail crossing safety as specified for higher speed passenger rail services.”
FRA requirements improve safety of every crossing while preventing the most common driver activity leading to crossing collisions. Crossing gates supported by audiovisual devices warn of approaching trains at every crossing. These improvements also satisfy FRA requirements for quiet zone crossing designations.
Quiet zone designations silence train horns at road crossings. Track improvements and more frequent maintenance lower train noise and vibration. These improvements boost quality of life and increase property values for nearby residents.
Improvements to safety, quality of life and property values are well worth increased maintenance costs.
- 3. Will the widened Panama Canal mean more FEC trains?
While this question has no relevance to AAF, it often is raised. The immediate effect of the widened canal will more likely mean a significant reduction in southbound FEC traffic. Currently, Pacific freight destined for southeast Florida unloads at Pacific ports and is transported by freight rail to Jacksonville. In turn, the FEC transports it to southeast Florida. However, the widened Panama Canal will allow future freight to be shipped directly to ports in southeast Florida, eliminating considerable demand for FEC’s southbound freight shipments.
Improved Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic seaboard port facilities will offer many alternate port facilities for Pacific shipping to destinations north of Florida. Isn’t it more likely, then, that the widened canal will decrease FEC traffic?
- 4. Is AAF just a ruse to improve the FEC freight rail corridor? Why not move the tracks west?
Isn’t the suggestion to “move the tracks west” in direct contradiction to the claim that AAF is nothing more than a ruse to improve FEC freight capacity? Shouldn’t a passenger train service be located along a route where it can serve the highest population density?
Would AAF spend $3 billion on an intercity express passenger service just to improve the FEC tracks for freight? Wouldn’t it be far less costly for the FEC to simply make improvements to its freight railway?
AAF’s land lease for its Cocoa-to-Orlando corridor expressly prohibits freight on that corridor.
AAF’s four new multi-million-dollar transit stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport are useless for FEC’s freight service.
- 5. What about trains carrying hazardous materials?
The FEC has been hauling hazardous materials in accordance with FRA regulations for decades. Chlorine, gasoline, and other hazardous materials are all routinely hauled by the FEC in full compliance with FRA regulations.
If hazardous materials aren’t moved by train, they will be moved by truck or boat. Positive train control and other rail improvements from AAF dramatically improve rail safety and make accidents even less likely, another benefit for our communities.
Improved safety and quality of life along the AAF route are benefits that answer questions concerning AAF.
Bob Webster, a full-time resident of Indian River County, is retired from a 30-plus-year career as an operations research analyst/systems analyst for the Department of Defense, where he supported research and development for weapon systems and munitions.