Today, Governor Rick Scott sent the following letter to Michael Reininger, President of All Aboard Florida, urging All Aboard Florida to listen to the voices of local communities as they plan their private-sector rail service. The letter is available below and online here.
June 9, 2014
Mr. Michael Reininger
President, All Aboard Florida
2855 Le Jeune Road, 4th Floor
Coral Gables, Florida 33134
Dear Mr. Reininger:
As I have traveled the state, I have heard questions and concerns about All Aboard Florida’s proposed passenger rail service from Miami to Orlando. First, I want to be clear on a critical point: the All Aboard Florida proposal is a private sector venture to construct, operate and maintain a passenger rail system. There will be no state subsidies for this project.
Funding in the budget for quiet zones was added at the request of local governments, planning councils and legislators along the Treasure Coast. This grant funding is for local governments and not committed for All Aboard Florida. If local communities now oppose these dollars they can notify the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) and those dollars will be redirected for other transportation priorities. Additionally, these communities committed to a 1-to-1 match so local dollars must be matched to state dollars before the projects can move forward.
In response to local communities’ questions about All Aboard Florida, we must ensure that there is a detailed conversation about this new rail service. Many families are worried about how these additional trains will affect their neighborhoods and their concerns should be heard. That is why this week, I tasked FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad with meeting community leaders and area legislators on All Aboard Florida to listen to their concerns and ensure their voices are heard by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), which is the lead agency on this project. As you know, All Aboard Florida has applied for a Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing (RRIF) loan through the Federal Railroad Administration, and federal processes required for loan approval include ensuring the project complies with 26 individual, federal regulations. To better enable federal officials to do what’s best for Florida families, we’ll supply input from our communities to those in Washington who are overseeing this project.
Additionally, there has been much discussion on our investments into the Orlando International Airport. This project was planned in the 1990s, well before the existence of All Aboard Florida, and the investments are for an intermodal facility that is similar to other airports in Florida. These dollars are for the airport’s intermodal facility, which includes rental car space, parking garages and rail lines. Our agreement stipulates that any funding invested for non-airport use must be returned to the state, thus any terminal used by All Aboard Florida would not be subsidized by state dollars.
The Federal Railroad Administration is the lead agency and is currently working on a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the project, an essential part of that process is a public comment period. While the state does not have the authority to halt or alter this project, I request that you expand the current public comment period from 75 days to 90 days. This additional time will allow communities more opportunity to have their specific concerns addressed.
Specifically, the communities surrounding the railroad drawbridges over the New River, St. Lucie River and Loxahatchee River have raised concerns about the impacts from this proposed project. Florida has over a thousand miles of coastline, and access to the water for boating is one of the things that make Florida so special. I understand that All Aboard Florida has taken specific steps for the New River Crossing including the reduction of the bridge cycle to limit the delays faced by boaters. During the public comment period, please also review the situation at the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee river crossings to address local concerns.
As you continue to outline your plans for All Aboard Florida, please be sensitive to the impact of additional rail traffic in the rail corridor to our communities, their home values and public safety. Thank you for seriously considering these concerns about the All Aboard Florida project and I look forward to your quick response.
cc: All Interested Parties