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All Aboard Florida might be in for bumpy ride July 1, 2014

Fort Lauderdale gets station, but boat industry worries about river crossing

Michael Mayo
Sun Sentinel Columnist

5:10 p.m. EDTJuly 2, 2014

Fort Lauderdale resident John Dotto has many concerns about All Aboard Florida, but he’s even more alarmed that when he talks to people about the new rail project, he usually gets blank stares.

“Nobody realizes what’s going on,” said Dotto. “This is going to have a huge impact.”

For those who don’t know, All Aboard Florida is a proposed passenger rail service 70-451 that will connect Miami to Orlando. It will run along the tracks east of I-95 now used by freight trains, with initial stops planned only for Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Its 32 daily trains will each cross 360 intersections along the route. And they will run over Fort Lauderdale’s New River via the notoriously balky train drawbridge, which could impede 70-452 pdf boat traffic and harm nearby marine businesses.

Phil Purcell, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of South Florida, said his group’s main concern is making sure the drawbridge is up – and the New River open to boat traffic – at least 40 minutes an hour. Initial plans show the bridge might be down 24-to-28 minutes an hour for passing trains. “That’s a big chunk,” Purcell said.

There are now 14 daily freight trains that cross the bridge, roughly half during daylight hours, with each closure taking 12-to-20 minutes.

“Right now a kayak has a hard time going under that bridge when it’s down,” said Purcell. He said train officials have been “cooperative” so far, pledging to coordinate trains and operate the closings with a live bridgetender (instead of by remote control) for better efficiency.

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Marine Industries Association of South Florida. 221 SW 3rd Avenue, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312. Phone: 954.524.2733