In Palm Beach County there are people, apparently a legion, who don’t like a railroad being a railroad. This is the opposition to All Aboard Florida, the fast train being planned on the FEC tracks from Miami to Orlando. The subject is getting almost daily coverage in the three South Florida papers. The common folk are being supported to a surprising degree by public figures who value the next election over the good of the region.
Some of the objections are legit. Marine industries have a concern over frequent railroad bridge closings affecting a major part of local industry. That must be addressed, and as we previously wrote, the final solution is rebuilding this critical transportation asset, including possibly tunneling under Fort Lauderdale’s New River. That is long range and expensive.
But many of the opposition’s qualms are shallow. People cite a delay of a few minutes getting to a hospital because a crossing that never should have been built in the first place is being closed. They also cite horn noises at crossings, which the FEC is working to reduce. Why do people move next to a railroad if they don’t like the railroad’s inconveniences?
One of the complaints from Palm Beach County is the fact that All Aboard Florida is scheduled to stop only in West Palm Beach. People say why should we approve a train that does not serve us – us being all the turf from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm – a 40-mile stretch without any stations.
The solution to this complaint is so obvious we would be surprised if the FEC/All Aboard Florida group is not already considering it. Tri-Rail has already announced a wish to expand its service on the FEC (it currently uses the CSX track to the west) all the way to Jupiter. It has even identified locations for Palm Beach County stations. All Aboard Florida has already said its first stage, scheduled for 2016, will only go as far as West Palm Beach. So why not put a few stations in Palm Beach County in places Tri-Rail has already identified? Not six stations, as they already exist on the CSX corridor along I-95, but perhaps every 10 miles, in prime traffic areas such as Delray Beach and Boca Raton. That would still permit a very fast train to be able to take advantage of the improvements already begun on the FEC tracks.
This would be a temporary, but very useful line, especially if stops were included at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, downtown Hollywood, and perhaps Aventura, before heading into downtown Miami. When the link from West Palm Beach to Orlando is ready (planned for 2017), All Aboard Florida could revert to its original plan and turn the stations over to Tri-Rail, which by then should be ready to expand some service to the FEC. Tri-Rail will have inherited, at little cost, the base for its commuter trains, plus a market study on the potential of the FEC route.
Again, this is so obvious we think it may be already in the works. At the very least, it would help All Aboard Florida with its PR problem in Palm Beach County.