Marine Industry Continues Discussions with All Aboard Florida April 29, 2014
Florida East Coast Industries, developer of the All Aboard Florida passenger rail plan, met recently with MIASF membership to provide a status report on the project which is currently in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) of the process. The EIS takes into consideration among other items, the social and economic impact to communities. AAF executive Husein Cumber, explained the EIS at this time is under review by federal commenting agencies including the US Coast Guard and will be released for public comment in June. Throughout his presentation Mr. Cumber emphasized that the goal is to find common ground to have the marine industry and the railway system coexist. He highlighted the multiple meetings that have been held with marine industry leadership over the past year in order for AAF to better understand the needs and challenges of navigating the New River.
FECI recognizes concerns that the marine industry has with increased rail traffic which will include additional freight as the ports prepare for the arrival of the larger Panamax ships. Additional bridge closures will further impede the movement of traffic on the river particularly those vessels restricted by draft which are being towed to the cluster of boatyards west of the railroad bridges. In answer to the industry concerns FECI has committed to instituting an onsite bridge tender to facilitate direct radio communication with vessel traffic. Currently the bridge is operated remotely from Jacksonville. Additional track improvements will reduce the closed cycle time to 12-13 minutes per cycle. The AAF proposal is to close the bridge twice per hour for both passenger and freight and to maximize efficiencies and minimize closures the passenger trains will be using the bridge as their starting point. The marine industry is requesting a predictable and guaranteed minimum numbers of minutes that bridge will be open per hour for boat traffic with specific times. This action will help protect the 90,000 jobs the marine industry supports in Broward County and its $7 billion economic impact.
Representative Lois Frankel, whose staff was present at the meeting, has gone on record in support of the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization utilizing an Economic Development Administration (EDA) study grant. The study will consist of all rail traffic (passenger and freight) on FEC and CSX tracks, its impacts on the businesses, residents and community including both vessel and vehicle traffic. FDOT is currently conducting an impact study as part of the process according to the presentation.
Benefits by AAF include creation of more than a thousand jobs statewide during construction for station and rail infrastructure and increased tourism opportunities by connecting three of South Florida’s major destinations with a convenient mode of transportation. This discussion provided an opportunity to confirm AAF had included in their plan to address times such as marine events with high vessel traffic (i.e. Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, Winterfest Boat Parade, etc.).
MIASF will continue meeting with all parties involved in the AAF proposal, advancing the marine issues and concerns, and reporting to the industry on developments.