One of those²days. Lots to talk about and just where do we begin?
Well how about Florida? Couple of letters about ALL ABOARD FLORIDA
All Aboard Florida will bring benefits to state
I would like to share a few thoughts as Florida considers its future in providing transportation options for its residents and visitors.
The All Aboard Florida project offers job creation and economic development and a new, desirable way for travelers to move between two of Florida’s most important destinations, as well as reducing traffic on Florida’s congested roads. Local issues (noise, delays, safety) have been mitigated by communities working with All Aboard Florida, as exemplified by the recent vote of the Brevard County Commission to support the project. And because the All Aboard Florida project is privately funded, there is no risk to taxpayers.
Yet, All Aboard Florida has its critics — primarily local groups acting in their own self-interest. CARE (Citizens Against Rail Expansion) is an example of an organization, consisting of people living in wealthy developments near the All Aboard Florida tracks, that solely has its own interests in mind. CARE continues to spread mistruths about the All Aboard Florida project in an attempt to build support from those who are less informed. It appears CARE has taken the Not in My Back Yard mentality to new heights, caring only about its wealthy communities over the greater gains to citizens of Florida.
I am proud to support All Aboard Florida and the tremendous benefits it will bring to Florida.
All Aboard’s trains will bring noise, disrupt traffic
I find it interesting that, according to a recent FLORIDA TODAY story, 26 out of 43 people supported All Aboard Florida at the recent Brevard County Commission meeting.
A letter writer asked in his recent letter, “How many of the AAF supporters live and work in Brevard?” My question: If they live here, how close are they to the FEC (Florida East Coast Railway) tracks?
When it was pointed out that property values could drop 20 percent, these people still voiced support. They probably don’t live near the tracks. My land abuts FEC property.
Little attention was given to the noise factor caused by All Aboard’s 32 passenger trains a day running between Miami and Orlando. Some engineers are horn happy, blasting four to five times. This happens every morning about 4:30 a.m., except on Sunday. Then, 20 to 30 minutes later, you hear blasts from a train traveling in the opposite direction. When doors and windows are open, it’s deafening. One can’t even hear TV.
Then there’s the vibration factor caused by the trains. A cypress clock fell off the wall, shearing off the hands, and wall pictures shift.
People east of the tracks usually need to cross them when going to a store, bank, church, shopping or doctor. Crossing gates will be down frequently. What about emergency vehicles? What about someone selling their home? Who would buy it when trains whiz by so many times a day? Freight trains appear to travel faster and are more heavily loaded than when I moved here, increasing noise and vibration.
Our commissioners should think about the effect AAF will have on homeowners. Kudos to the two commissioners who voted “no.”
Two companies with ties to All Aboard Florida — Florida East Coast Railway and Florida East Coast Industries — have given more than $125,000 to candidates and committees during the 2014 election cycle — a fraction of what several other large businesses in have contributed during the same time frame, state and county records show.
Florida East Coast Railway contributed $74,825 to 2014 campaigns, state finance records show. The vast majority of that money — $70,000 — went to Let’s Get To Work, a political committee backing Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign.
Florida East Coast Industries had contributed $51,689 as of Monday afternoon, according to state finance records. The money went to several campaigns, including: $7,500 to the Republican Party of Florida; $3,000 to Florida Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam: and $3,000 to state Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater.
The company contributed $1,000 each to both Democratic State Sen. Maria Sachs and her Republican challenger Ellyn Bogdanoff in the Palm Beach-Broward Senate District 34 race.
Florida East Coast Industries also contributed $1,000 each to Palm Beach County Commissioners Steven Abrams and Paulette Burdick.
By comparison, U.S. Sugar has given more than $2.3 million to state candidates, state finance records show. Roughly half of that went to the Republican Party of Florida. Political newcomer David Silvers hopes to beat incumbent Bill Hager
David Ryan Silvers is running for political office for the first time, and in a district that might be the most competitive in Palm Beach County. What could make his chances of a win seem even more tough is that he’s running against a man who already has name recognition and two consecutive terms in his pocket. But Silvers says he is confident he’ll be the one chosen to head to Tallahassee , not Rep. Bill Hager.
The area is mostly coastal and is nearly split between the two parties; Republicans take 36 percent of the district and Democrats take 34 percent. It is the only district in the state house races that have both candidates running political ads on television.
Concerning All Aboard Florida. Silvers said some of his concerns are about safety and emergency crew response times possibly affected by the trains. He said the project would benefit the area economically, but, “when there’s such an outrage from a community, that usually would trump the economic impact.”
Hager said he is “sensitive” to the potential impact at the crossings. “So my position is we need to catch our breath and take a careful look at it,” Hager said.
All Aboard Florida cuts risk to taxpayers
To All Aboard Florida, the venture planning high-speed rail service through Brevard, for eliminating one of the main knocks against its plan. No longer will it seek a low-interest federal loan to build or upgrade tracks between Miami and Orlando — making it publicly subsidized and possibly a risk to taxpayers. Instead, the company plans to finance through private bondholders and repay them, tax-free, from private operating cash flow. The downside to those who oppose 32 trains a day zipping through towns on the Florida East Coast Railway: They can no longer fight the loan approval to monkey-wrench the plans.
Brevard Commission tackles train noise issue
County commissioners debated whether it would be a good idea to take steps to reduce the noise created by the horns of 32 passenger trains a day passing through 50 crossings in central and southern Brevard County.
The majority said they want to do whatever they can to implement a continuous “quiet zone” in Brevard along the route of the proposed All Aboard Florida train service. But Commissioner Trudie Infantini voted against that, fearing the safety issues created if the train horns do not sound as a train approaches the railroad crossings.
All Aboard Florida is proposing train service from Orlando International Airport to Miami, with interim stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Plans call for 16 trains a day in each direction.
Some local residents are opposed to the service, because of its potential impact on the environment, noise, road traffic and safety. Compounding the issue: The trains will not be stopping in Brevard to pick up or drop off passengers.
The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization proposes that the county and six affected Brevard cities and towns on the route seek quiet zone designation from the Federal Railroad Administration to eliminate the sounding of a train horn at each crossing the train approaches.
All Aboard Florida seeks private financing to replace or augment federal loan request
All Aboard Florida has changed its plan to pay for its express passenger rail line and will seek private debt financing that will replace or substantially reduce its current federal loan request, according to its website.
The private company, which plans to run 32 trains per day from Miami to Orlando, has applied for a $1.6 billion loan with the Federal Railroad Administration, but says it “has decided to pursue” the alternative route of a private activity bond allocation to pay for West Palm Beach to Orlando leg of the track.
The Miami to West Palm Beach portion of the plan was paid for with $405 million in high-risk bonds that the company sold in the spring.
“Proceeds from the PABs, equity contributions from All Aboard Florida’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries, and rolling stock financing, will provide all the funding necessary to develop the project between Miami and Orlando,” All Aboard Florida’s website says.
The $405 million in privately offered notes, which carry a 12 percent interest payout, were expected to be paid off by the $1.6 billion publicly subsidized federal loan once it was awarded.
In a prospectus for the bond sale, potential buyers were told that All Aboard Florida may redeem all or part of the notes sometime before the end of 2016 “with the proceeds of a Government Loan.”
All Aboard Florida said it floated the bonds because it didn’t want to wait to begin construction until the loan was awarded. An environmental impact statement, which was released last month, had been delayed since the spring, and a 75-day comment period still stands in the way of the loan being considered.
The company already pushed back the start date of the West Palm Beach to Orlando service to early 2017.
Cato Institute rail expert Randal O’Toole has said in the past that he is skeptical All Aboard Florida will be profitable either as a transportation or real estate investment.
At the same time, All Aboard Florida opponents have questioned why the federal government would loan money to a project that is considered so high-risk in the private sector that it required a 12 percent bond yield.
“The money they borrowed in the marketplace was at a junk bond level,” said Steve Ryan, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney hired by the group Citizens Against Rail Expansion. “To me, raising money at junk bond levels is not an indication of strength.”
All Aboard Florida has said the total cost for its unprecedented project is $2.5 billion, and the prospectus notes that parent company Florida East Coast Industries has contributed $345 million in cash to the plan. It has also contributed to the land purchased for the stations in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, which is valued at approximately $730 million, according to the prospectus.
“They definitely have skin in the game,” said Chris Kotowski, an analyst at Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. “Three hundred and forty-five million dollars, that’s not peanuts.”
In general, though, the RRIF program authorizes the Federal Railroad Administration to provide direct loans and loan guarantees up to $35 billion to finance development of railroad infrastructure. Up to $7 billion is reserved for projects benefiting freight railroads.
The money may be used to acquire and improve rail equipment or facilities, refinance outstanding debt taken on to rehabilitate rail lines, and develop new intermodal railroad facilities — all things All Aboard Florida plans to do.
If the company’s $1.6 billion request is granted, it will be the largest RRIF loan awarded to date.
Commentary: All Aboard Florida benefits to county
West Palm Beach City Commissioner Shanon Materio
Perhaps it is from my perspective as a member of the Palm Beach County Metropolitan Planning Council (MPO) that makes it difficult for me to understand the recent debate among some of the cities in Palm Beach County whether to support the All Aboard Florida passenger rail project.
The comments seem to surround answering the general question of determining the direct benefit to a particular city. That in fact is what we do on the MPO. We decide how to spend tens of millions of public tax dollars for transportation projects that will not only help a particular local government but will enhance the overall transportation grid within Palm Beach County as a whole.
Most projects don’t directly help my city of West Palm Beach. However, everyone on the MPO realizes that better roads, better mass transit, better turning lanes and beautified roadways, no matter in what city they are located, work to make all of Palm Beach County and our collective quality of life better for everyone. Try to imagine the gridlock that would occur on the MPO if every dollar for every project had to also be justified by a city proving a direct beneficial nexus to every other city in Palm Beach County.
It is also why the MPO voted to set aside funding for “quiet zone” upgrades for the cities in Palm Beach County that run along the FEC (Florida East Coast) rail corridor. All the cities to the west of the FEC corridor will not directly benefit from the quiet zones, but recognize that the overall benefit to our county far exceeds the incremental cost.
I know there is a grass-roots effort attempting to stop the All Aboard initiative or somehow turn it into a public-sector project based upon a federal loan application, and as an elected official, I certainly respect the right of every citizen to get involved and voice their opinions. But equal respect should be afforded to the industries and cities that actually believe passenger rail service being integrated into Florida is a good thing.
Yes, West Palm Beach is the city designated for the All Aboard rail station. But West Palm Beach is the county seat, is centrally located and in close proximity to Palm Beach International Airport. In the same way all of Palm Beach County benefits from Wellington’s equestrian economy, or Jupiter’s bioscience research hub, or Boca Raton’s technology corridor, all of Palm Beach County will benefit from having an All Aboard Florida station in West Palm Beach.
From my position as a member of the MPO, I am thrilled that we don’t have to use a penny of public dollars other than what our cities need for their application to the federal government to request a quiet zone. And if our federal government can actually make money by loaning All Aboard Florida money instead of spending money, I say that’s smart business.
Life in Florida is pretty good for most of us. Yes, we occasionally have to wait in our cars when a boat lazily passes through a bridge opening; or we wait while a train goes by, but what does it say about our lives if those inconveniences ruin our day?
On the MPO, we measure the public dollar cost against the overall public benefit. If the public benefit to Palm Beach County is greater than the cost, we all support the project no matter if one city might benefit more than another. In this case, the benefits of intercity passenger rail and the future infrastructure it will bring, allowing more commuter rail service on the FEC throughout Palm Beach County, far outweigh the cost to the public.
Got more great stuff, will publish SOON.
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All Aboard Florida would create ‘unavoidable’ traffic delays through Treasure Coast says TC Palm
Traffic delays at Seaway Drive and the railroad tracks in Fort Pierce — for motorists headed east to the barrier island — would nearly triple if All Aboard Florida begins running passenger trains through the Treasure Coast, according to traffic experts and the Federal Railroad Administration.
West Palm Beach commissioners will wait until October to discuss All Aboard Florida’s request to close a section of downtown to build a rail station for its upcoming express passenger train service.
City commissioners were expected to take up the request at a meeting Monday, but officials said Thursday the item has been delayed and will not appear on the commission’s agenda, according to The Palm Beach Post.
The alley is located between Datura and Evernia streets to the west of the Florida East Coast Railway tracks.
Bridge closures on the New River in Fort Lauderdale would more than double under All Aboard Florida’s proposed passenger service. But the length of each closure would be shorter.
It’s a similar story on the Loxahatchee River in Jupiter, where bridge closures would quadruple though the duration for each would be less.
A draft study on the impacts of the proposed rail line found:
•The New River bridge would be closed 30 times a day for an average of 13 minutes vs. 10 times a day currently for an average of 19 minutes.
• The Loxahatchee span would be closed 42 times a day for an average of 12 minutes vs. 10 times a day for an average of 19 minutes.
• Drivers can expect crossings to be closed 54 times a day or three times an hour, compared to once an hour now.
And here’s how the study says the impacts, which it labeled “minimal,” will be mitigated:
•Faster speeds for both freight and passenger trains, thanks to the construction of a second track.
•Coordinated train schedules so passing trains cross at the same time, and increased efficiency in how the bridges are raised and lowered.
•There will be a set schedule for bridge closures and countdown timers or signals at each span to indicate when bridges will close and how long before trains will arrive.
•There will be a tender at the New River bridge. The span currently is raised and lowered remotely by a dispatcher in Jacksonville.
All Aboard Florida plans to run 32 passenger trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks at speeds of 79 to 125 mph. The FEC now carries about 14 freight trains a day, but that’s expected to increase to 20 a day by 2016.
Together with All Aboard Florida’s trains, that would mean 52 trains a day traveling through downtowns from Miami to West Palm Beach.
Some boaters say the impacts are understated.
“It is difficult to believe than an additional 32 trains plus 20 freight trains crossing the New River would not have any impact even if they actually manage to synchronize the passenger train crossings,” said John Dotto, a boater who lives west of the bridge.
“How can this possibly be considered no impact?”
The New River is the lifeline for Broward’s marine industry, home to about a third of the county’s marinas with the largest concentration west of the railroad bridge. The Loxahatchee River represents slightly less than quarter of Palm Beach County‘s marine industry.
The Marine Industries Association of South Florida has said one of its main concerns is making sure the New River drawbridge is up and the river open to boat traffic at least 40 minutes an hour.
The closures would impact about 36 percent of the 215 boats that pass through the New River bridge on average daily, up from 23 percent currently.
On the Loxahatchee River, the closures would impact about 47 percent of the 121 boats that pass through the bridge on average every day, up from 16 percent currently.
Residents and many elected officials from northern Palm Beach County to the Treasure Coast oppose the project and have grown louder in their opposition. They say their communities will suffer blocked crossings and noise but not get any benefit because the only stops are planned in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando International Airport.
Passenger service in the three South Florida cities is expected to start in late 2016 with the northern leg to Orlando starting in 2017.
Florida East Coast Railway is preparing for completion of the Port of Miami’s harbor-deepening project in the fourth quarter of 2015 by purchasing new equipment and locomotives and offering expedited services to population centers in the Southeast.
South Atlantic ports anticipate increased container trade with Asia in early 2016 with the completion of an expansion project at the Panama Canal to allow vessels with capacities of up to 13,000 20-foot container units to transit the canal.
Ports such as Miami, Jacksonville, Savannah and Charleston are at various stages of deepening their harbors so they can accommodate the mega-ships on all-water services from Asia to the East Coast. Miami in late 2015 is scheduled to be the first South Atlantic port to complete a 50-foot dredging project.
When choosing a load center for their mega-ships, container lines look for ports with large local markets plus intermodal rail connections to population centers and cargo hubs outside of their immediate hinterlands.
Trans-Pacific carriers are showing increased interest in Miami as a gateway to both Florida, with its population of more than 19 million, and the entire Southeast via intermodal rail, Jim Hertwig, president and CEO of Florida East Coast Railway, said at a press briefing last week at the Intermodal Association of North America conference in Long Beach.
A deep harbor is only the price of entry into the competition for gateway status in this era of big ships and ocean carrier alliances. Load-center ports must also have excellent inland transportation infrastructure, intermodal rail connectors and highway access to cargo hubs in the interior.
FECR is South Florida’s intermodal connection to the Southeast region. Its 351-mile route connects the ports of Miami, Port Everglades and Palm Beach with Jacksonville, Florida, where it interlines with the Class I eastern railroads CSX and Norfolk Southern.
FECR will be ready in terms of equipment, locomotive power, on-dock rail capacity and expedited service to handle the additional intermodal volume that is anticipated from the Panama Canal and Port of Miami expansion projects, Hertwig said.
The rail carrier is increasing its intermodal capacity by acquiring 500 53-foot domestic containers, 100 chassis and 50 refrigerated trailers. The trailers and containers are equipped with GPS technology.
FECR is also acquiring 24 new locomotives designed to meet federal Environmental Protection Agency Tier 3 emissions requirements. The railroad is also considering the use of retrofit kits that would allow the locomotives to burn liquefied natural gas, Hertwig said. LNG offers increased mileage and lower emissions than diesel fuel.
The railroad has access to Miami’s on-dock rail transfer yard and Port Everglades’ near-dock rail transfer facility that offer reduced costs and enhanced time-to-market service for intermodal services.
FECR is improving its intermodal services to and from cargo hubs in the Southeast, with second-day services to Charlotte, Nashville and Atlanta, Hertwig said.
As carrier alliances expand their service offerings in the major east-west trades, the introduction of one or two weekly services with 10,000-TEU ships would be sufficient to make Miami a competitor for all-water services from Asia, he said.
The Federal Railroad Administration is holding a series of pubilc information meetings. In South Florida, meetings will be from 3:30-7 p.m. on:
Oct. 27 at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, James K. Batten Room 2106, 300 NE Second Ave., Miami;
Oct. 28 at the Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale;
Oct. 29 at West Palm Beach Marriott, 1001 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach.
But anything to do FEC or AAF hits the news
The tank, which is about as large as a house, was “venting off,” said Nate Spera, district chief with the Fire District.
“They’re designed that if the tank should heat up, it’ll let some gas escape and it’s supposed to close back off,” Spera said. “This one did not close back off, so when we got here it was about 55 percent full at the time.
Florida East Coast Railway boosts intermodal capacity
Florida East Coast Railway will boost its intermodal capacity with new equipment that will help further its strategy to convert existing trailers to containers to provide double-stack transportation service.
The Class II railroad has acquired 500 new 53-foot containers and 100 chassis, as well as 50 refrigerated trailers to cater to customers in the perishables market. All of the units will be in service by mid-October.
The containers and reefer trailers are equipped with GPS technology, providing real-time tracking capabilities, and the reefer units are also equipped with systems that provide information about operational performance, including temperature levels.
“We continue to see positive growth in our intermodal business as customers from a variety of industry segments recognize the value we provide,” said James R. Hertwig, president and CEO, in a statement. “With the addition of these new units, we are well-positioned to meet the needs of the marketplace during the upcoming peak shipping season and beyond.”
Earlier this month, Florida East Coast Railway launched a 53-foot container service, giving North Carolina shippers a new option to ship goods to South Florida for domestic consumption or transloading for export.
Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) is expanding its services to include intermodal transportation between Charlotte, N.C., and a number of South Florida locations.The railroad’s Piedmont Express service is available five days a week using FECR assets. The seamless two-day service offers various pickup and delivery options, including door-to-door, ramp-to-door and ramp-to-ramp service.
Now, customers have another option to move their freight to the growing South Florida market more efficiently and effectively, FECR officials said in a press release.
“On average, for every four southbound shipments arriving in South Florida, there is only one northbound shipment. This imbalance can be challenging,” said FECR President and Chief Executive Officer James Hertwig. “However, Piedmont Express [service] in FECR’s containers provides a cost-effective option for customers in the Carolinas.”
Florida East Coast rail bridge in downtown Jacksonville now has limited open and close schedule following repairs
The span adjacent to the Acosta Bridge in downtown had been closed to a significant amount of boat traffic since Sept. 8 after a pinion gear broke. It was operational again at 3:45 p.m., said Debra Phillips.
“There will be a limited opening schedule to be sure the repairs continue to function properly,” she said.
She said the schedule is being coordinated with the Coast Guard and it will remain in the upright position for Sunday’s Jaguars game, as has been done in the past.
The closing affected both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters who could not pass beneath the rail crossing when it was in the down position.
The railroad bridge was built in 1926 and has had a history of breakdowns.
All Aboard Florida’s northern route will have minimal impacts, federal study finds
The Federal Railroad Administration has found the overall environmental impacts of the northern leg of All Aboard Florida’s passenger rail service will be minimal, according to a draft study released this afternoon
The 500-page study, known as an environmental impact statement, evaluates the impacts of the rail project between northern Palm Beach County and Orlando.
The much-anticipated study was originally expected to be released in April.
The Palm Beach Post is in the process of reading through the document, which was released at 2:20 p.m. Check back for updates.
VERO BEACH, Fla. – A local business owner worries All Aboard Florida could force him to close. He recently received a letter from the company behind the project telling him they have rights to part of his property.
Douglas Moore owns Cindi’s Pet & Aquarium Center here in Vero Beach. He sells reptiles, fish, birds and puppies plus food and treats.
“My future is very uncertain at this time,” says Moore.
That’s because of All Aboard Florida. The project will run from Orlando to Miami. It will add 16 round trip high speed trains in his backyard.
“According to my vet the vibration alone of that many more trains will probably put me out of the animal business,” says Moore.
He told us the vet says the vibration will frighten the animals. Moore is also concerned about a letter from the Florida East Coast Railway. The letter tells him the company has a right of way to the back of his business. That includes several parking spots and storage space.
“Losing 5, 6 parking spots is gonna mean I lose 5 or 6 customers,” says Moore.
He’s the not the only one concerned. Next door is Royal Ballroom Dance Studio. The owners started their dancing business almost four years ago.
“People like it you know we don’t want to move,” says owner Oleg Dimidrov.
He and his wife Asya worry about the noise and if the project will impact their property just like their neighbor.
Moore says he has written to lawmakers including the governor asking for help. He also has an attorney.
The announcement of the public comment meetings comes after Murphy met with Coast Guard Rear Admiral John H. Korn in July to express his opposition to the high-speed rail and made a formal request for the Coast Guard to hold hearings so the public can explain the project’s impact on maritime traffic, commerce, and safety.
The Coast Guard will also conduct a navigation survey on the effect of rail traffic on the Loxahatchee, St. Lucie, and New Rivers.
“With the proposition of 32 additional trains crossing the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers via draw bridges that are almost a century old, AAF stands to create major problems on the water backing up recreational boats, harming marine businesses, and delaying emergency vehicles by causing frequent closures,” Murphy said in a statement released today about the meetings. “It is imperative that business owners, boaters, and emergency personnel have their concerns heard so that the Coast Guard may evaluate how best to ensure the continued navigability of our waterways.”
Florida East Coast Industries CEO Vince Signorello appears on CNBC to tout All Aboard Florida project
Signorello said tourists and state residents make roughly a half a billion trips each year between Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando. All Aboard Florida’s express trains can move those passengers more quickly, shaving about an hour off of the time it takes to drive from Miami to Orlando.
“It is the math that makes it work,” Signorello said Wednesday on the network’s morning talk program, Squawk Box.
Signorello said about 40 percent of All Aboard’s riders are expected to be tourists.
“The balance is split between local people moving around the State of Florida and business people,” he told the network.
When asked whether it would be cheaper and easier for families to travel by car, Signorello said: “The economics work better for smaller groups.”
But Signorello noted that many tourists are willing to spend a little extra to save time and be more productive while they travel.
“When you think about the people moving between Miami and Orlando, particularly the tourists, there is a level of affluence that allows them to get on the train and trade their time and productivity for dollars,” Signorello said.
All Aboard Florida plans to run 32 passenger trains a day between Miami and Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. Miami-to-West Palm Beach service is expected to begin in late 2016 with the Orlando leg starting in 2017.
In a tweet Sunday, All Aboard Florida officials said to expect “lots of news this week about the project.”
An environmental impact statement addressing the effect the project could have on areas north of West Palm Beach has yet to be released.
Keeping out tradition of going over developments with All Aboard Florida, Florida East Coast Railway and Tri-Rail. One would think end of August would be quiet, but no, we have some good stories for you.
The Miami Herald has a big story “Work begins — finally — on Miami-to-Orlando fast train”
Preliminary work has begun for construction of a $2.5 billion express passenger train between Miami and Orlando.
In preparation for the project, 35,000 linear feet of new steel rails have been laid on the ground alongside existing freight train tracks at two sites in Palm Beach County just west of North Dixie Highway in Boca Raton.
Parking lots that for years were packed with vehicles next to the Miami-Dade County Hall building and Metrorail tracks in downtown Miami are now empty, closed for coming construction of the train’s Miami station.
The shuttered parking lots and the new steel rails mark the first physical work on the future service since the ambitious project was announced in March 2012.
All Aboard Florida, as the project is called, is expected to begin operations in two phases: first between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2016 and then between West Palm Beach and Orlando in 2017.
It won’t be as fast as the French TGV, but at 125 mph, it won’t loaf along either. Details of the trainsets are not finalized, but they will be Made In U.S.A.
First passenger trains since the 1960’s along the East Coast that was originally developed by Henry Flagler.
Four good pictures and a recap of the grade crossings and other issues.
Next we have even more All Aboard Florida opponents who want ‘open and honest’ response from Governor Scott
The story in TCPalm says this group will get their “moment in the Sun” with Scott’s staff. CARE FL — an acronym for Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida — is all from “upscale” communities in Palm Beach County. Concerns about property values and blocked access.
A plan to expand Tri-Rail service would deliver commuters smack in the center of downtowns from West Palm Beach to Miami. A proposed Tri-Rail service, called the “Coastal Link,” would use the train tracks running through coastal downtown communities such as West Palm Beach, Boca Raton and Fort Lauderdale. The trains would be added to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks that run along Dixie Highway, but would not replace Tri-Rail service on the tracks along Interstate 95.
The Sun-Sentinal has written an expanded article that answers a lot of our questions.
Laying the groundwork for the “Coastal Link” has been underway for the last few years. But plenty of planning, construction and funding still has to happen. Consider:
• Fees to use the tracks are being negotiated between Tri-Rail and the Florida East Coast Railroad, which owns the coastal tracks.
• The estimated cost to get Tri-Rail Coastal Link started is between $720 and $800 million. That money would cover stations, a third track, and bridge improvements. A final cost will be nailed down after the Florida Department of Transportation‘s two-year study is complete.
• Money to run the trains still has to be found. An estimated $100 million would be needed annually. Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties would have to pitch in, and possibly some cities as well.
Right now, Tri-Rail service starts and ends north of West Palm Beach. Using the coastal tracks, Tri-Rail would reach to Jupiter and connect some 28 coastal communities by train.
The new Tri-Rail system would then have three main routes:
• The red line would run from Mangonia Park to downtown Miami with trains traveling on the western tracks Tri-Rail currently uses and switching over at Pompano Beach to the coastal tracks.
• The blue line would run from Boca Raton to Miami International Airport, using the same route Tri-Rail uses now.
• The green line would run from Jupiter to downtown Fort Lauderdale on the coastal tracks.
• Trains would run every 30 minutes or every hour. About 20 to 22 stations are being considered for the service.
The new service would provide people with access to more entertainment and recreation options and would be more than a way “just to get to work,” said Amie Goddeau, a mobility development manager for the state’s transportation department.
If All Aboard Florida, the high-speed rail between Miami and Orlando, continues as planned, the private company will add a second track to the coastal line, which Tri-Rail trains could also use. Even with that second track, a third track also may be built to prevent train traffic jams.
Earlier this year, Tri-Rail and All Aboard Florida reached an agreement on how the two services would operate. Basically, they agreed not to compete with each other, leaving Tri-Rail as the local commuter service and All Aboard Florida as a limited-stop service.
Two construction projects critical to Tri-Rail’s coastal service are in the works. Work on two additional connections that link the coastal railroad to the tracks near I-95 should begin within a year. Those connections would allow Tri-Rail trains to travel between the two railways.
One connection is north of downtown West Palm Beach at 25th Street. The other connection is in Miami.
The three counties are looking at various ways to come up with the money, including using a transportation sales tax, gas tax or rental car surcharge.
On to California. Their biggest problem has been finding. But now private investors are warming to California high-speed rail. Does this means maybe a 50-mile segment called “The Pepsi Trail”; or maybe naming rights for stations: “next station stop is Goldman Sachs”? The Sacramento Business Journal sees many possibilities. Nine companies, mostly large construction, engineering and infrastructure firms that have worked on high-speed rail elsewhere, have written letters saying they are interested in financing part of what would be the state’s largest-ever infrastructure project. “We would be very interested in participating in the competition for the construction and financing of California high-speed rail projects,” reads part of a letter from AECOM, a major engineering firm. Other companies writing to bullet train planners include Grupo ACS, Sener, Vinci Concessions, Siemens, Railgrup, Sacyr, Acciona Concesiones and Astaldi SpA.
The New York Times has presented a report on the almost $11 billion spent on High Speed Rail by the Obama Administration.
High-speed rail was supposed to be President Obama’s signature transportation project, but despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere and the United States still lags far behind Europe and China.
While Republican opposition and community protests have slowed the projects here, transportation policy experts and members of both parties also place blame for the failures on missteps by the Obama administration — which in July asked Congress for nearly $10 billion more for high-speed initiatives.
Instead of putting the $11 billion directly into those projects, critics say, the administration made the mistake of parceling out the money to upgrade existing Amtrak service, which will allow trains to go no faster than 110 miles per hour. None of the money originally went to service in the Northeast Corridor, the most likely place for high-speed rail.
On a 30-mile stretch of railroad between Westerly and Cranston, R.I., Amtrak’s 150-m.p.h. Acela hits its top speed — for five or 10 minutes. On the crowded New York to Washington corridor, the Acela averages only 80 m.p.h., and a plan to bring it up to the speed of Japanese bullet-trains, which can top 220 m.p.h., will take $150 billion and 26 years, if it ever happens.
New Jersey News 12 has reported on “Feds take first step in bringing high speed rail to Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor in NJ”
The federal government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to bring high speed rail to the Northeast.
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, running from Washington, D.C. to Boston, is the crown jewel of the nation’s railroad system.
Trains traveling 160 mph could soon fly across the rails, and New Jersey’s tracks are the key to the whole plan.
WOW, this high speed rail / Florida East Coast thing is even getting into the Governor’s Mansion. NEXT CITY has a big story on: High-Speed Rail Muddies Florida Governor’s Race.
High-speed rail has a complicated history in the Sunshine State. Florida’s current governor Rick Scott was one of several Republicans to refuse federal funds ($2.4 billion) earmarked for high-speed trains in 2011. According to the Tampa Bay Times,his decision elicited “cheers from his tea party base, and harsh criticism from leading Florida Republicans and Democrats.”
Fast-forward three years, and a high-speed project is in the works — with cautious support from Scott. But All Aboard Florida, as it’s cheerfully titled, is different from the project Scott refused for one simple Tea Party-pleasing reason: It’s privately owned and operated by Florida East Coast Industries. And Scott is quick to point that out.
“All Aboard Florida is a 100 percent private venture,” he said in a TV interview in June. “There is no state money involved.”
The train is expected to connect Miami to Orlando in less than three hours with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. It will be the slowest of the three proposed U.S. rail projects (others are Texas and California), maxing out at 125 mph.
Now Jacksonville, who is not officially yet involved with All Aboard Florida has gotten into the news. The Jax Daily Record had a good article on “Better Transit Systems For Downtown Is Key To Growth”.
Getting Jacksonville’s Downtown better connected through public transit would lay the groundwork for regional high speed rail and help lift urban core real estate.
That was the takeaway of an industry panel that discussed the future of infrastructure in Northeast Florida.
The panel was part of an event that unveiled the Urban Land Institute’s 2014 infrastructure report. The report focused on how infrastructure investments could shape cities for global competitiveness.
The industry panel took a local view, though, by asking which investments would promote Jacksonville the best. Downtown public transit connectivity was considered one of the missing puzzle pieces.
It’s one of the things holding back All Aboard Florida, a privately funded high-speed rail initiative that will connect Orlando with Miami. Jacksonville is not yet included in that plan.
The initiative is first targeting cities that have local routes in place to take riders from high-speed rail stations to their final destinations, said Husein Cumber, executive vice president of Corporate Development for the Florida East Coast Railway, the parent company of All Aboard Florida.
Orlando is one such city. It has been investing in its public transportation system for decades.
To compete, Jacksonville would have to have routes in place so a rider could get from a high-speed rail station to places like EverBank Field for a game, to the airport, San Marco or Jacksonville Beach, Cumber said.
In separate letters to the Government Accountability Office, U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, and Bill Posey, R-Rockledge, said an independent review of the All Aboard project is needed before federal officials decide whether to give the company the loan, The Palm Beach Post reports.
Read more on this story about the Congressmen.
TC Palm has the story on Indian River County rejectingAll Aboard Florida’s plan to maintain rail crossings
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