Tag Archives: Florida

Scott committee hauls in $579,000, spends $1.36 million

TALLAHASSEE — Continuing to run television ads to boost his priorities, Gov. Rick Scott’s “Let’s Get to Work” political committee raised more than $579,000 in January while spending nearly $1.37 million, according to a newly filed finance report.

The committee, which has played a key political role for Scott, collected $579,600 during the month and had about $737,000 remaining on hand as of Jan. 31.

It spent $1,366,169, with much of the money going to advertising.

The committee received large contributions from some organizations and businesses. For example, it received $100,000 from a Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC; $62,500 from Florida East Coast Railway; $50,000 from the health insurer Florida Blue; and $50,000 from a Florida Insurance Council PAC, according to the filing.

All Aboard Florida will benefit the entire region

In his May 23 column, Taken for a ride on the Boondoggle Express, about All Aboard Florida, Carl Hiaasen says the, “U.S. DOT gave AAF the green light to sell $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds…which is basically a federal loan.”

The federal government has zero financial liability. It is not supplying the funds, nor is it liable if the funds aren’t repaid. Not a single government entity has any financial responsibility in relation to these bonds.

Next he repeats the tired line: “All passenger trains in this country operate deep in the red.” But Amtrak’s northeast corridor regularly profits on its operations.

Then, “AAF has exactly zero chance of making money running passenger trains.” It’s correct that passenger rail is hard to be profitable, but that’s why AAF is also creating synergistic businesses.

The trains deliver people, and by allowing passengers the ability to shop, work and live nearby, the passengers support the real estate. The rail helps the real estate, and the real estate helps the rail. Together the two pieces are more successful than either one would be on its own.

It’s misleading for Hiaasen to say that expansion of the Orlando Airport is a “gift” to AAF. Every airport in the country was paid for with public money. AAF will be a tenant at the airport, just the same as every airline.

It will pay market rent for its space and pay for every passenger delivered, just as the airlines do. Why is this acceptable for an airline, yet reprehensible for a railroad?

Hiaasen also says, “The train trip is supposed to take about three hours — which is two hours and 18 minutes longer than a…flight.” But most of us have to drive to the airport, park, check in, navigate security, wait to board, squeeze into the sardine can, push back, taxi, fly, land, taxi again, wait for the gate, deboard, walk a mile, and wait for luggage.

He says: “Nowhere in the study summary does it reveal how much it will cost to ride the train.” As with airlines, ticket price will be competitive and determined by market conditions at the time.

As for his assertion that emergency-vehicle access will be impeded, since AAF is only talking about 16 round trips per day, can you imagine the impassable gridlock of 60 trains per day? We’d all be dead.

Except, every weekday, right now, the SFRTA/TriRail tracks carry that amount, and these tracks run through the densest population of Florida. But we don’t hear about people dying.

Jim Kovalsky, president, Florida East Coast Railway Society, Lantana

All Aboard Florida and Florida East Coast Railway Have Been Busy Little Beavers

Taken For A Ride With the Boondoggle Express   An opinion

All Aboard Florida taps Archer Western for rail infrastructure improvements

All Aboard Florida to unveil plans for condo project in downtown West Palm Beach

 

All Aboard Florida caused drop in sale prices for homes near rail line in Martin County, study shows

American LNG Gets Second FTA Authorization to Export From Florida

 

Florida East Coast Railway Offers Added Convenience to Customers with online portal

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 18, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — Florida East Coast Railway (FECR) today announced the launch of a new online portal, FECR Connect. The system allows customers to track freight shipments and equipment across the network. It also streamlines the process of submitting and managing shipping instructions electronically.

All Aboard Florida selects GE for signaling, PTC

 

Infrastructure investments by Florida East Coast Railway

As ports all along the US Gulf and East coasts vie for more cargo, Port Everglades continues to broaden its reach, partnering with both public entities and private businesses on a group of landside infrastructure improvements that offer a direct interface with national road and rail networks.

In explaining the differentiators between Port Everglades and Miami – approximately 20 miles to the south – the port’s chief executive, Steven M Cernak tells Port Strategy: “There’s enough business for both ports to thrive.” Historically, the port has been heavily involved in the north-south trades.

One major project that has been operational since July 2014 is the Florida East Coast Railway’s (FECR) new $72m, 43-acre intermodal facility that is used to transfer both domestic containers to/from South Florida and international shipping containers between ships and the railroad. This near-dock facility, located at the port, replaced a much smaller yard, located two miles away. International cargo moves through the FECR rail yard directly from inside the port, and domestic trucks have a separate entrance.

Port Everglades contributed the land to the public/private partnership. Florida’s Department of Transportation (FDOT) awarded an $18m grant and the State of Florida provided a $30m State Infrastructure Bank Loan to the FECR for the project.

One supply chain that has benefited already is the ‘Threads Express’, an intermodal service for shippers of garments between the South-eastern US and Central America. Deepsea containers are transloaded on the FECR at the dock, linking, in turn, with the CSX railroad (reaching into the Carolinas and beyond).

Through road

Motorway transportation is also important. Last year, the Eller Drive Overpass opened to connect the east end of I-595 (a spur to the interstate highway network) directly to the Port’s main entrance. The FDOT invested $42.5m to build the overpass, which allows vehicles entering Port Everglades, including big trucks, to travel unimpeded over two new at-grade rail tracks that lead into the new ICTF. Interstate-595 is a connector directly to three high speed north-south motorways: I-95, I-75 and Florida’s Turnpike.

Construction is mainly complete and is expected to be finished in the next few months. Mr Cernak tells PS: “With our last mile projects almost completed, we like to say that there is only one stop light from Port Everglades to Los Angeles.”

Mr Cernak discusses efforts to secure more perishables cargoes, which historically have moved through the Delaware Bay, explaining “we are lobbying the US Department of Agriculture to change the existing requirements.”

He mentions a pilot program where Peruvian and Uruguayan produce now enters the US through Port Everglades. Mediterranean Shipping Corp, active in the port, is also reconfiguring its terminal, adding more than 500 reefer plugs and enhancing its throughput ability.

Of course, proximity to Cuba is also on planners’ minds, certainly for the truck ferry business; Mr Cernak says: “We’ve been dealing with the Overseas Foreign Asset Control (OFAC- a US government agency)…we hope to get access for the ferries. Grocery products consolidated here, for end users in the Caribbean, is already a big business for us.”

Longer-term capital improvements include the purchase of new super post-panamax gantry cranes and the completion of capacity upgrades to the existing gantry cranes. In an ongoing project set for completion in 2019, the port will be adding new cargo berths and will lengthen its existing deep-water turning basin from 900 feet to 2,400 feet.

The existing Southport container berths will see the addition of the new cranes, to be placed on rails running the full length of the extended turning basin. The port is also moving ahead with its long-standing effort to deepen and widen its navigational channels to handle larger vessels with a greater draft.

Port Everglades, operated by Broward County, Florida, handles cruise, container and bulk cargo – notably cement – and petroleum products. Its cargo business is in expansion mode and 2014 marked a milestone 1m teu moving through the port.
Source: Port Strategy

Port of Palm Beach Railroad

 

 

Remember When: Honorary citizen of StAugustine, Florida, 1938: Col. Fulgencio Batista,

Because we follow Florida East Coast Railway and All Aboard Florida so closely, we run into some other amazing stories about Florida/ This one came from the St. Augustine WebSite StAugustine.com

The connection of Florida and Cuba was around for a long time before the Castro “problem”, which we hope is on a way to a solution.

 

 

Contributed by James Banta Col. Fulgencio Batista, Cuban army chief, became an honorary citizen of St. Augustine on Nov. 21, 1938. Mayor Walter B. Fraser presented Batista with an inscribed scroll during the ceremony which took place during a brief stop of the Florida East Coast Railway train he was on. Pictured from left to right is Jim Banta, Mrs. Collins, General Collins, Fraser, Batista and Mary Louise Ponce. Every Monday we are running a photo to remind readers of what St. Augustine was like in the past. If you have photos like this send them to photos@staugustine.com or bring them to The Record building at One News Place. To see past images, go to staugustine.com.

Fulgencio Batista (1901-1973) was a Cuban army officer who rose to the presidency on two occasions, from 1940-1944 and 1952-1958. He also held a great deal of national influence from 1933 to 1940, although he did not at that time hold any elected office. He is perhaps best remembered as the Cuban president who was overthrown by Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution of 1953-1959.

Collapse of the Machado Government

Batista was a young sergeant in the army when the repressive government of General Gerardo Machado fell apart in 1933. The charismatic Batista organized the so-called “Sergeant’s Rebellion” of non-commissioned officers and seized control of the armed forces. By making alliances with student groups and unions, Batista was able to put himself in a position where he was effectively ruling the country. He eventually broke with the student groups, including the Revolutionary Directorate (a student activist group) and they became his implacable enemies.

First Presidential Term, 1940-1944

In 1938, Batista ordered a new constitution and ran for president. In 1940 he was elected president in a somewhat crooked election, and his party won a majority in Congress. During his term, Cuba formally entered World War Two on the side of the Allies. Although he presided over a relatively stable time and the economy was good, he was defeated in the 1944 elections by Dr. Ramón Grau.

Return to the Presidency

Batista moved to Daytona Beach in the United States for a while before deciding to re-enter Cuban politics. He was elected senator in 1948 and returned to Cuba. He established the Unitary Action Party and ran for president in 1952, assuming that most Cubans had missed him during his years away. Soon, it became apparent that he would lose: he was running a distant third to Roberto Agramonte of the Ortodoxo Party and Dr. Carlos Hevia of the Auténtico party. Fearful of losing entirely his weakening grip on power, Batista and his allies in the military decided to take control of the government by force.

 

Batista

The 1952 Coup

Batista had a great deal of support. Many of his former cronies in the military had been weeded out or passed over for promotion in the years since Batista had left: it is suspected that many of these officers may have gone ahead with the takeover even if they had not convinced Batista to go along with it. In the early hours of March 10, 1952, about three months before the election was scheduled, the plotters silently took control of the Camp Columbia military compound and the fort of La Cabaña. Strategic spots such as railways, radio stations and utilities were all occupied. President Carlos Prío, learning too late of the coup, tried to organize a resistance but could not: he ended up seeking asylum in the Mexican embassy.

Back in Power

Batista quickly reasserted himself, placing his old cronies back in positions of power. He publicly justified the takeover by saying that President Prío had intended to stage his own coup in order to remain in power. Young firebrand lawyer Fidel Castro tried to bring Batista to court to answer for the illegal takeover, but was thwarted: he decided that legal means of removing Batista would not work. Many Latin American countries quickly recognized the Batista government and on May 27 the United States also extended formal recognition.

Revolution

Castro, who would likely have been elected to Congress had the elections taken place, had learned that there was no way of legally removing Batista and began organizing a revolution. On July 26, 1953 Castro and a handful of rebels attacked the army barracks at Moncada, igniting the Cuban Revolution. The attack failed and Fidel and Raúl Castro were jailed, but it brought them a great deal of attention. Many captured rebels were executed on the spot, resulting in a lot of negative press for the government. In prison, Fidel Castro began organizing the 26th of July movement, named after the date of the Moncada assault.

Batista and Castro

Batista had been aware of Castro’s rising political star for some time, and had once even given Castro a $1,000 wedding present in an attempt to keep him friendly. After Moncada, Castro went to jail, but not before publicly making his own trial about the illegal power grab. In 1955 Batista ordered the release of many political prisoners, including those who had attacked Moncada. The Castro brothers went to Mexico to organize the revolution.

Batista’s Cuba

The Batista era was a golden age of tourism for Cuba. North Americans flocked to the island for relaxation and to stay at the famous hotels and casinos. The American mafia had a strong presence in Havana, and Lucky Luciano lived there for a time. Legendary mobster Meyer Lansky worked with Batista to complete projects, including the Havana Riviera hotel. Batista took a huge cut of all casino takings and amassed millions. Famous celebrities liked to visit and Cuba became synonymous with a good time for vacationers. Acts headlined by celebrities such as Ginger Rogers and Frank Sinatra performed at the hotels. Even American Vice-President Richard Nixon visited.

Outside of Havana, however, things were grim. Poor Cubans saw little benefit from the tourism boom and more and more of them tuned into rebel radio broadcasts. As the rebels in the mountains gained strength and influence, Batista’s police and security forces turned increasingly to torture and murder in an effort to root out the rebellion. The universities, traditional centers of unrest, were closed.

Exit from Power

In Mexico, the Castro brothers found many disillusioned Cubans willing to fight the revolution. The also picked up Argentine doctor Ernesto “Ché” Guevara. In November of 1956 they returned to Cuba on board the yacht Granma. For years they waged a guerrilla war against Batista. The 26th of July movement was joined by others inside Cuba who did their part to destabilize the nation: the Revolutionary Directorate (the student group that Batista had alienated years before) almost assassinated him in March of 1957. Castro and his men controlled huge sections of the country and had their own hospital, schools and radio stations. By late 1958 it was clear that the Cuban Revolution would win, and when Ché Guevara’s column captured the city of Santa Clara, Batista decided it was time to go. On January 1, 1959, he authorized some of his officers to deal with the rebels and fled, allegedly taking millions of dollars with him.

After the Revolution

The wealthy exiled president never returned to politics, even though he was still only in his fifties when he fled Cuba. He eventually settled in Portugal and worked for an insurance company. He also wrote several books and passed away in 1973. He left several children, and one of his grandchildren, Raoul Cantero, became a judge on the Florida Supreme Court.

Legacy

Batista was corrupt, violent and out of touch with his people (or perhaps he simply didn’t care about them). Still, in comparison with fellow dictators such as the Somozas in Nicaragua, the Duvaliers in Haiti or even Alberto Fujimori of Peru, he was relatively benign. Much of his money was made by taking bribes and payoffs from foreigners, such as his percentage of the haul from the casinos. Therefore, he looted state funds less than other dictators did. He did frequently order the murder of prominent political rivals, but ordinary Cubans had little to fear from him until the revolution began, when his tactics turned increasingly brutal and repressive.

The Cuban Revolution was less the result of Batista’s cruelty, corruption or indifference than it was of Fidel Castro’s ambition. Castro’s charisma, conviction and ambition are singular: he would have clawed his way to the top or died trying. Batista was in Castro’s way, so he removed him.

That’s not to say that Batista did not help Castro greatly. At the time of the revolution, most Cubans despised him, the exceptions being the very wealthy who were sharing in the loot. Had he shared Cuba’s new wealth with his people, organized a return to democracy and improved conditions for the poorest Cubans, Castro’s revolution might never have taken hold. Even Cubans who have fled Castro’s Cuba and constantly rail against him rarely defend Batista: perhaps the only thing they agree on with Castro is that Batista had to go.

Florida Rail Is, As Always, Exciting

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

FloridaJacksonvilleBridge

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

FloridaEastCoastRouteMap

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.

Read the All Aboard environmental impact study.

 All Aboard Florida could impact man’s pet business in Vero Beach

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.

Find out about better tools and Fairpromise

 

Rail News From Florida plus President Obama’s Rail Plan

Officials from four of five “Sister Cities” got an update Thursday on issues affecting their cities, ranging from the controversial All Aboard Florida rail project to a beloved proposal for a manatee viewing area.

Politicians from Lake Park, Mangonia Park, Riviera Beach and West Palm Beach, dubbing themselves “Sister Cities,” made no decisions at the meeting, which is meant to improve communication among the coastal neighbors. Representatives from the fifth city, Lake Worth, did not attend.

The proposal for a private railway linking Miami and Orlando has been drawing complaints from residents in northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast, while some leaders in southern Palm Beach County and the rest of South Florida are excited about it, said Mike Busha, director of the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

Busha’s group, a body with elected officials from four counties, has been pushing for a commuter rail service along the All Aboard corridor. He said plans are progressing on a link between the two sets of train tracks that run down the South Florida corridor. That would enable Tri-Rail trains to switch to the Florida East Coast Railway line to reach Jupiter and the Treasure Coast.

* * * * *

St. Augustine-based Roadway Worker Training, which provides railroad safety training to most major and small rail companies, has a new leader in the wake of the company being sold.

David Oram, who has 38 years experience in the railroad industry, is coming on as the new president. Owner and founder Jim Cashwell — who will be staying on with the company for the foreseeable future — recently sold RWT to the RJ Corman Railroad Group.

Although headquartered in Northeast Florida, the company does safety training across the whole country — from Miami to New York State to California and even into Canada, Oram said. Services include safety training, on-scene management of railroad construction safety, railroad signaling and even producing safety videos.

Customers include CSX, Florida East Coast Railway and Genesee and Wyoming, said Jason Ramsay, director of business development for Focal Point Productions, the media branch of RWT.

“We’re looked to as a resource to make sure that training is up to par,” said Ramsay. “We’re a very trusted resource by our clients.”

Ramsay said that while RWT can be supplementary to training programs companies already have, other times RWT serves as the in-house trainer. “We’re actually in the field, keeping people safe, making sure they make right choices,” he said. “It’s an incredibly complex and dangerous thing for people to be out and about rail-yards.”

As regulations and safety restrictions become stricter for railroad policy, RWT stays on top of the mandates so it can instruct its customers on how to follow the new rules.

“As some of the regulation changes come out, we have to opportunity to comment on as it as it comes out,” Oram said. “So we’re involved in that way.”

* * * * *

From TIME Magazine Michael Grunwald @MikeGrunwald

The New York Times has declared President Barack Obama’s high-speed rail program a failure. “Despite the administration spending nearly $11 billion since 2009 to develop faster passenger trains, the projects have gone mostly nowhere,” America’s paper of record reported Aug. 6—in its news pages, not its opinion section. The story quickly rocketed into Republican talking points and conservative op-eds as fresh evidence of presidential haplessness.

But it’s wrong. The administration hasn’t spent anywhere near $11 billion. The projects haven’t gone mostly nowhere. There are legitimate questions about the high-speed rail initiative—and the administration’s hype has outstripped its ability to deliver in an era of divided government—but the public debate over the program has been almost completely detached from the reality on the ground.

Here’s the real story.

First of all, while Congress has appropriated $10.5 billion (not $11 billion) for high-speed rail, only $2.4 billion (definitely not $11 billion) of it has been spent to date, much of it on planning, design and other pre-construction work. The big construction spending has just started, and will continue through September 2017. Yet the Times and other critics are judging the program as if it had already blown through all its cash. The new meme on the right is that Obama has poured $11 billion into high-speed rail with nothing to show for it. In fact, less than one-fourth of the money has gone out the door. Just because funds have been appropriated and even “obligated” does not mean they’ve been spent, much less “poured.”

That fundamental mistake alone is enough to refute the basic thesis of the Timesgotcha story. But it also fuels other widespread public misperceptions about what the program has already achieved, what it’s supposed to achieve, and why it’s unlikely to achieve Obama’s grand vision for high-speed rail. The first sentence of the Times article noted U.S. passenger rail “still lags far behind Europe and China,” but that’s an absurd and annoyingly common straw man to use to slag the program.

Really, the initiative that Obama launched with his 2009 stimulus bill should have been called “higher-speed rail.” As I wrote a few years ago in TIME, it was partly about creating new routes for 200-mile-per-hour bullet trains like the ones already zipping around Europe and Asia, but it was mostly about improving slower-speed Amtrak routes so they would be incrementally faster and more reliable. America’s freight rail system is the envy of the world, but our passenger rail system is awful; the goal of the program was to make it less awful—a more realistic alternative to long drives and short flights.

So where did the Administration send the money? The big winners in the initial state-by-state competition were Florida and California, which had ambitious plans for new bullet trains. But after Rick Scott, a Tea Party Republican, was elected governor of Florida in 2010, he killed the Sunshine State’s Tampa-to-Orlando-to-Miami train and sent $2.4 billion back to Washington. That meant the far more daunting and less shovel-ready San Francisco-to-Los Angeles line would be America’s only new bullet-train project. After years of legal and political warfare, California is just now preparing to start laying track in the Central Valley.

The rest of the high-speed money is going to lower-speed projects where Amtrak trains share tracks with lumbering freight trains. But that doesn’t mean they’re bad projects. “They’re not as sexy, and maybe they don’t look like much, but they’re providing tangible benefits,” Federal Railroad Administrator Joe Szabo said in an interview. Bridge and tunnel repairs, projects to upgrade and straighten tracks, sidings and double-tracking to help passenger trains pass freight cars, and other incremental improvements can all make rail travel more attractive.

And it’s happening. By 2017, the program will reduce trip times from Chicago to St. Louis by nearly an hour through upgrades that will increase top speeds from 79 to 110 miles per hour; Chicago to Detroit will get a similar boost. The Department of Transportation says it has already sliced off a half-hour between Springfield, Mass., and St. Albans, Vt., while completing projects to reduce delays around San Jose, San Diego, Fort Worth and Oklahoma City. It has extended Amtrak service for the first time to Brunswick, Maine, anchoring a thriving downtown revitalization program, and it’s bringing trains to the Illinois towns of Geneseo and Moline for the first time since 1978. It has renovated stations in St. Paul, Minn., and Portland, Ore, and it’s expanding service between Raleigh and Charlotte, where ridership has nearly tripled since 2005.

You need a pretty crimped sense of “somewhere” to argue that the money is going “mostly nowhere.”

One can certainly argue the money should have gone elsewhere. It’s nice that a new bridge and other Missouri projects have improved on-time performance between Kansas City and St. Louis from about 20 percent to 80 percent, but that’s still not a popular train route. Florida’s Scott and Wisconsin’s Republican governor, Scott Walker, both scuttled solid projects—the $45 million their states spent beforehand was the only inarguably wasted high-speed rail money—but Ohio’s Republican governor, John Kasich, had a strong case for scuttling an absurdly slow-speed project in his state. Many critics have suggested Obama should have focused on the Northeast Corridor between Boston and Washington, which is wildly popular—and profitable—even though it’s much slower than it should be.

In fact, the Administration has steered about $850 million to the Northeast Corridor. Szabo was in Trenton last week to tout a massive upgrade to an 80-year-old electrical system that will reduce delays and increase top speeds to 160 m.p.h. on America’s most traveled 23-mile stretch of track. The work will be a prototype for projects along the rest of the corridor, where rail has already replaced air as the dominant form of travel, even though logjams keep average speeds at 70 m.p.h.

Still, it’s true that the bullet-train rhetoric from Obama and the White House’s main train buff, Vice President Joe Biden, has not lived up to the bullet-train reality. It’s also true that the Administration’s spread-it-thin strategy, featuring incremental improvements in 32 states, is hard to justify in a vacuum. You need to walk before you can run, but it doesn’t make much sense to upgrade trains from slow speeds to semi-slow speeds if they’re never going to be able to compete with cars or planes. That’s why in 2011, Biden announced a new six-year, $53 billion plan to expand high-speed rail beyond the initial stimulus investments, a plan that would have built much more groundwork for a truly competitive national passenger rail network.

That plan, however, really has gone nowhere. Once Republicans took over the House, Congress stopped appropriating money for high-speed rail. Period. There was never any chance that bullet trains would be whizzing all over America by now, but the reason there’s no realistic prospect of that happening anytime soon has nothing to do with executive incompetence and everything to do with politics. And while I love the New York Times—even when it publishes ludicrous essays slagging my hometown—its validation of the “mostly nowhere” nonsense will help make sure America’s passenger rail system remains a global joke.

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Last Friday in August Developments in Florida Rail

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.

Florida Governor Rick Scott
Florida Governor Rick Scott

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.

TriRail Train
TriRail Train

 

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.

Anybody remember this? “A collection of articles about Railroads and Transit in Florida. Tri-Rail was created to head-off an often-quoted scenario in which I-95 would have to be widened to 44 lanes to handle increased traffic expected along certain stretches by the year 2020.”

China shows interest in 4th set of locks in Panama

The third set of Panama Canal locks aren’t even completed yet, and yet Panama wants a fourth set of locks to handle even bigger ships. What about the idea of  the whole brand new canal in nearby Nicaragua? Guess who is “interested” in both the new canal and the 4th set at Panama? CHINA!

The Panama Canal announced on Friday that its administrator, Jorge L. Quijano, “held an informative meeting” with a delegation headed by Mo Wenhe, chairman of the China Harbour Engineering Company (CHEC) and Wei Hua Wang, a representative of the Chinese-Panamanian Office of Business Development.

In the Panama Canal release, Mo showed interest in the development of projects in the Panama Canal during the upcoming years. In particular, Mo said, “We are exploring our participation in all canal projects, especially in the design, construction and financing of a fourth set of locks.”

The release said CHEC is a leading full-service provider of engineering-procurement-construction, build-operate-transfer and public-private-partnership projects for the public and private sectors. Currently, it said, CHEC is present in more than 80 countries, including Panama where it will be setting up its regional headquarters. Last June, then Honduras President Porfirio Lobo signed a memorandum of understanding with CHEC to build a multibillion interoceanic railroad including up to 10 rail lines.

But by the time the third set locks open in 2016, shipping companies will have taken delivery of new ships of all kinds that are too large to fit into the new locks.

For many years, Panama Canal traffic grew even though its locks were increasingly out of date, given growth in ship sizes. The largest ship that can currently transit the Panama Canal is roughly 5,000 TEUs, while 18,000-TEU ships are now in service and ships larger than 19,000 TEUs are being built. Thus, it is arguably a change in approach that the Panama Canal is already showing impatience with the idea that the third set of locks, which will be able to accommodate 98 percent of the world container fleet by 2018, may not be large enough. The new factor may be Nicaragua, whose controversial $40 billion China-backed canal proposal has received a series of endorsements and government approvals, most recently from a Nicaraguan government committee that in July approved the proposed route for the canal.

Panama earlier this year heaped criticism on the Nicaragua canal idea, but more recently has been restrained, saying it’s not a competitive threat.
Now what will the impact on Southern Florida and the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC) be. We have previously covered this showing how FEC has added to facilities.

Florida: All Aboard Florida, Tri-Rail Coastal Link, and All the Usual Suspects

State of Florida needs to rethink funding for Tri-Rail Coastal Link – Sun Sentinel

If there’s one decision the Florida Department of Transportation should backtrack on, it’s the refusal to use state funds to build a needed link that will bring commuter rail service to downtown Miami.

At issue is the $44 million needed to build a station for the Tri-Rail Coastal Link at All Aboard Florida’s Miami station. Unfortunately, Tri-Rail’s link to the proposed Miami hub is in jeopardy because of its ties to All Aboard Florida, a promising venture that faces opposition from communities north of West Palm Beach.

“This letter is to again restate that All Aboard Florida is not receiving any state funding,” Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad wrote All Aboard Florida earlier this month in response to reports that the railroad may seek a state grant for the Miami station.

Unfortunately politics, not sound policy, is driving the decision here. Yes, the coastal link will help the new intercity rail line, but the bigger beneficiaries are Tri-Rail and South Florida’s longstanding dream of providing commuter-rail service to the downtowns of coastal communties.

All Aboard Florida is a private initiative that plans to bring higher-speed passenger train service between Miami and Orlando. Its first phase, between Miami and West Palm Beach, should start in late 2016.
The idea holds promise, but All Aboard Florida has drawn critics who believe the undertaking won’t live up to its billing of relying on private funding because the railroad has applied for a government loan to jumpstart construction. That criticism, however, shouldn’t impact the Tri-Rail Coastal Link.

The link includes a spur between the CSX tracks and a new Tri-Rail station at the All Aboard Florida Miami terminal, and is key to ultimately running Tri-Rail trains along the Florida East Coast Railway line. Tri-Rail currently operates on 72 miles of CSX tracks the state purchased from the freight line to run commuter trains between Mangonia Park and the Miami International Airport.

South Florida Regional Transportation Authority officials see the link as a way of connecting trains from Palm Beach County directly into downtown Miami. They insist quick action is necessary because it would be cost prohibitive to try to shoehorn a new Tri-Rail station into an already existing terminal.

The state of Florida has already invested millions of dollars in building and operating Tri-Rail, and earlier this year Gov. Rick Scott pledged $213 million in state tax money to build a new train depot at Orlando International Airport that All Aboard Florida will lease.

“This is the right thing for the state,” Scott said in February when he was joined at an airport news conference by Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs.

So, what’s another $44 million at the other end of the line? It doesn’t seem like a stretch, particularly because the state is already so heavily invested in moving commuters by rail. Unfortunately, Scott seems to be in an election-year retreat as rancor surrounding All Aboard Florida grows.

The coastal link is a badly needed capital project, and backlash against All Aboard Florida shouldn’t stop it. If local leaders want to see Tri-Rail link downtown communities along the FEC tracks, as they should, they’d better step up and insist the state deliver the money needed to make that promise a reality.

All Aboard Florida officials will attend a Boynton Beach City Commission meeting in September to answer questions about the project.

The meeting will be Sept. 3.

Mayor Jerry Taylor asked City Manager Lori LaVerriere to schedule a meeting so Taylor could hear where the city is on thoughts of the express passenger rail service.

All Aboard will run from Miami to Orlando on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. It will have stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

The Miami-to-West Palm Beach service is expected to open in late 2016.

Read: Boynton Beach to have All Aboard Florida discussion

A new complaint regarding the proposed All Aboard Florida high speed rail service.

The city of West Palm Beach has heard from residents criticizing the architectural design of the train station that is planned for the downtown area.

City officials say they have no control over the station’s design because it is being built on property that is controlled by Florida East Coast Railway.

The city will create an informational program about the project to air on it’s governmental TV station.

All Aboard Florida last month unveiled an artist’s rendering of the train station’s design last month.

St. Lucie, Florida and Other News About Florida East Coast Railroad and All Aboard Florida

The “David” in this David & Goliath story is not Loren Data. It is the tiny village of St. Lucie, Florida.   If it comes to a fight between All Aboard Florida and St. Lucie Village, don’t bet against the village.  The tiny municipality north of Fort Pierce has a history of taking on powerful interests and winning.  St. Lucie Village – population 599 – is nestled between the Indian River Lagoon and U.S. 1.  It is mostly residential.  Running down the middle is a set of Florida East Coast Railway tracks.  The railway would like to add two more sets of tracks to accommodate All Aboard Florida, an affiliate of the railway, which wants to operate a high-speed passenger service between Miami and Orlando.  Sixteen trains in each direction every day.  Village residents are against the triple tracks.  At public meetings, they said they fear emergency services would not have easy access to homes east of the tracks.  St. Lucie Village is the oldest continuously occupied place in St. Lucie County, dating back to the mid-1800s.  But it was not incorporated until 1961 — so that residents could prevent construction of a steel mill in their midst.  In the 1990s, the village joined others to block a plan to expand the nearby St. Lucie International Airport.  Any big Goliath about to face this little David should take note.  Paul Janensch, Radio 88.9 FM, WQCS.ORG.

AllAboardFloridaTrain

Martha Musgrove from the Sun-Sentinal Talks About All Aboard Florida.

With infectious enthusiasm, Mike Reininger, president and chief development officer for All Aboard Florida, grabbed the microphone to whoop: “This is happening — now!”

This being the train-of-trains that will whisk passengers from Miami to Orlando in three hours, with interim stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

But All Aboard Florida isn’t a “done deal” and can’t “happen” until the financing is in place to restore double tracking to the FEC corridor and build an extension between Cocoa and Orlando. The financial linchpin to making things happen is a $1.5-billion Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement loan the company is seeking from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Trying to block the loan are well organized opponents in Florida’s politically conservative Treasure Coast and Space Coast, who are airing TV commercials depicting “Big Choo-Choo” as a house-shaking, dish-rattling behemoth with yellow eyes, an evil squint and bared steel-teeth. The NIMBY (not in my backyard) factor is clear. But it’s not the only political driver. There’s also an abhorrence of “big government” and lingering rancor over “waste,” “bail-outs,” and failed “public-private partnerships.”

Let’s focus on two NIMBYs: noise, which is inextricably linked to safety, and blocked navigation.

Railex

RAILEX OPENING IN JACKSONVILLE

Railex, which operates weekly unit trains that offer express five-day coast-to-coast service, recently shipped its 1,000th eastbound train and is celebrating its seventh year in business, according to Paul Esposito, executive vice president of network planning and government relations.

Esposito said that 1,000 trains is the equivalent of 142,000 truckloads, and the use of Railex’s service helped save over 63 million gallons of diesel fuel and prevented more than 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from being pumped into the atmosphere.

It’s a tremendous savings on the environment,” he told The Produce News.

Esposito and other Railex officials were on hand at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit convention, here, to promote the planned opening of its new facility in Jacksonville, FL, which is expected to be operational by May or June.

Railex identified the location in Jacksonville in September 2012, said Esposito, and the company has been going through the permitting and scheduling process for the past year, he said.

It’s really an ideal location,” said Esposito. “It is on Phillips Avenue at the junction of FEC Railroad, which provides easy accessibility and gives us a rail option to South Florida as well as increases our distribution radius.”

Railex began operating in 2006 with service between its headquarters in the Albany, NY, area and a facility in Wallula, WA. In 2008, it added a facility in Delano, CA. The Jacksonville facility is its fourth and will facilitate express shipments to all major Southeast markets, including Atlanta and Miami.

Each of the four facilities offers refrigerated storage space with distinct custom temperature zones that enables it to properly handle the various perishable products, such as produce, seafood, wine, nursery and frozen items.