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All Aboard Florida

Anti-rail group slams federal study of All Aboard Florida

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A representative of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, or CARE FL, denounced a new federal report on the likely environmental impact of proposed construction to implement All Aboard Florida, a private passenger transit system that aims to connect Orlando and Miami via train.

CARE FL Treasurer Brent Hanlon said on Wednesday a recent report by the Federal Railway Administration — which by and large gives the rail project the a-okay — “isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.”

“It never straightforwardly addresses the real concerns voiced by citizens from the impacted communities -– concerns over the chosen route, public safety, the ability to use the navigable waterways, unimpeded access to healthcare facilities, and the overall negative impact of the project on our quality of life,” said Hanlon in a news release.

Hanlon went so far as to say backers of the project improperly leaned on regulators who analyzed the project.

The report, said Hanlon, “ignored many of the concerns we expressed in our December 2014 comments on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The correspondence between the FRA and AAF shown in CARE’s comments demonstrates that AAF aggressively intervened with the regulatory agency in an overbearing way.”

The group marshaled the support of retired Coast Guard Capt. Dana Goward, who concurred with CARE in saying issues like incomplete maritime data and unwarranted assumptions based on limited data signifies the report “consistently failed to seek or use accurate data, and failed to make good-faith estimates of the negative impacts of the AAF proposal on navigation and navigation-related economies and communities.”

CARE FL says that while the report does not give the project the green light to begin breaking ground, it is another perilous step forward for a project it calls “poorly conceived” and says “threatens unacceptable adverse impacts to the safety and welfare of Florida’s citizens.”

The group said in no uncertain terms that the All Aboard Florida and perhaps the state and/or federal government — which supplies some financial support to the project — may soon face adverse legal action.

“We understand that the FEIS is not truly final until a Record of Decision, or ROD, is issued. If the ROD does not adequately address our concerns, CARE will need to consider litigation in order to protect the rights of Treasure Coast citizens,” Hanlon went on.

Ryan Ray writes about campaigns and public policy in Tampa Bay and across the state. A contributor to FloridaPolitics.com and before that, The Florida Squeeze, he covers the Legislature as a member of the Florida Capitol Press Corps and has worked as a staffer on several campaigns. He can be reached at ryan@floridapolitics.com.

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