Reps. Murphy & Frankel meet with USDOT to discuss Florida high-speed rail

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U.S. Reps. Patrick Murphy and Lois Frankel met with the head of the U.S. Department of Transportation Monday to discuss community concerns over All Aboard Florida, the proposed high-speed rail corridor linking Miami and Orlando.

Murphy and Frankel brought issues raised by constituents to a discussion with USDOT Secretary Anthony Foxx.

All Aboard Florida is a privately owned and operated rapid rail service planned to run along the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC). The anticipated service, administered by the FEC, will eventually connect Miami and Orlando through a nearly 240-mile route along the Atlantic coast from Miami north to Cocoa, then turning west towards Orlando.

By early 2016, up to 32 passenger trains will run between Miami and Orlando, West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Commuter trains could reach 79 mph in the connector between Miami and West Palm Beach, reaching 110 mph on the way to Cocoa, where new tracks will join the line to Orlando International Airport.

The Federal Railroad Administration’s High-Speed Rail Division is considering holding the rail line in a “sealed corridor” level of safety guidelines, reports Emily Roach of the Palm Beach Post. One key issue is the area from West Palm Beach to the north, where trains would travel at speeds reaching 110 mph.

“There is no doubt that this project will have an effect on the lives of my constituents, from the Palm Beaches across the Treasure Coast, and it is vital that the Department of Transportation take into consideration the impact it will have on the safety, economy, and livability of our communities,” Murphy said in a statement released Monday.

“I look forward to a review of the project, and its economic and quality of life impact,” Frankel added.

Both Congress members will send a follow up letter to Foxx later this week defining specific questions and concerns raised by residents and other stakeholders.

Estimated startup costs for the project is about $1 billion, which includes the new 40-mile track section between Cocoa to Orlando.

Although its a private company, All Aboard Florida did apply for Federal Railroad Administration loans in March 2013 to pay for some start-up costs. Originally, service was to begin by 2014, but last year the launch date was pushed back to sometime in late 2015.

According to the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, the project has support from a wide range of local governments, regional planning councils, business organizations (such as chambers of commerce, tourist development councils, hotel/motel associations, realtor associations, economic development agencies, and others), neighborhood associations, citizens groups, and individuals. Among the statewide supporters are the Florida League of Cities, the Florida Association of Counties, the Florida Regional Councils Association, and the statewide MPO Advisory Council.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.