Gayle is NOT All Aboard Florida!
Gayle believes that the proposal by Fortress Investment Group LLC and it’s subsidiary, All Aboard Florida (AAF) to run 32 high speed passenger trains between Orlando and Miami daily is economically unfeasible, unsafe, and threatens not only our thriving marine and boating industry but our way of life on the Treasure Coast. AAF is definitely NOT in the best interest of our community.
Under the current $3 billion proposal, AAF will use existing Florida East Coast tracks between Miami and Cocoa, adding a second track to the corridor from Cocoa to Miami, (with the exception of the St. Lucie Bridge.) and a new track will be built from Cocoa to Orlando along SR 528. AFF states the passenger trains will be “high-speed”, traveling up to 110 mph through many of our communities.
In addition, there will a significant increase from the current 10-12 freight trains per day which run through our community as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal. Freight trains are expected to increase in number by 42% in 2016. Furthermore, some trains may expand to lengths up to 2.65 miles long. It is not unreasonable to anticipate over 50 trains a day speeding through the Treasure Coast.
AAF is unsafe.
There are many public safety concerns including the impact 50 trains a day will have on our first responders as they transport patients to hospitals or respond to fires or criminal activity. This could mean a much slower response time and some communities will be split in half. Seconds count when saving lives.
The safety of the aging railroad bridges is an additional concern. According to the St. Lucie Railroad Bridge report issued by Retired USCG Capt. Dana Goward, one of the nation’s top bridge and maritime experts with more than 40 years of experience in the maritime industry, our bridges cannot sustain additional rail traffic. The bridge’s age and condition could create structural and mechanical failures that could further obstruct the waterway.
AAF is economically unfeasible.
The economic viability of AFF is very questionable. According to a study conducted by Professor John Friedman of Brown University and formerly a White House Economist, All Aboard Florida will likely generate losses of $100 million annually.
Passenger train services have been money-losers in the U.S. for more than half a century. There are few if any rail projects in the United States which have been successful in the past 50 years and have not needed a federal bailout. Currently Tri-Rail which would serve the same passenger population between Miami and West Palm Beach is 80% subsidized by tax payer dollars. According to experts that number is in line with most mass transit systems across the nation.
“Investing in the Series 2015 [All Aboard Florida] bonds involves a high degree of risk,” states the Limited Offering Memorandum drafted by Bank of America – Merrill Lynch for the bond sale.
The document lists 25 pages of risk factors that could lead to default or insolvency, including possible construction delays, cost overruns, regulatory/legal problems, faulty ridership/revenue projections and high debt load.
The FDFC financial consultant, Jeff Larson, acknowledges the HIGH risk of the project including the fact that AAF “currently has no revenues or cash flows and has never constructed or managed a passenger rail.
AAF threats our way of life.
There are approximately 30 road crossings of the FEC tracks in Martin County alone, 28 of which are in moderately dense urbanized areas. In 2012 there were over 4,800 peak hourly crossings of traffic at Jensen Beach Blvd., Confusion Corner, Monterey Road, Salerno Road, and Bridge Road. Multiply this times the entire train route along Florida’s East Coast. The recurring funding necessary to maintain high speed rail will drive our taxes up and vibrations and noise from the trains will reduce our property values.
Our rivers and waterways are an essential part of our communities on the Treasure Coast and the thriving marine and boating industry are a key driver of our economy. Open access to the Indian River Lagoon and the Atlantic Ocean are essential to the industry.
The addition of 32-50 trains a day and the necessary closure of train bridges 32-50 times a day will create significant problems for boaters. According to by the Jupiter Inlet Navigation District, boaters waiting to pass the Florida East Coast drawbridge in Stuart, the New River, Loxahatchee River, and the St. Lucie River could typically expect to wait 20 minutes for a passing train with some waits lasting as long as 1.5 hours. The time the bridge takes to complete its cycle from locking down well in advance of a train and opening long after it passes creates an enormous problem for boaters, businesses, and residents located west of the trestles.
Click here to see Gayle’s record.)