Back in April SSECN hosted quite a discussion on the issue of increased rail service across Florida, see http://cruisersnet.net/?p=136159. This is one of those easy-to-be-torn conflicts in which one wants to see the increase in rail service to, hopefully, cut auto congestion along the coast, but at the same time, keep vessel traffic flowing smoothly through all those railway lift bridges. We welcome your arguments, pro and con! Our thanks to all who have contributed to this discussion.
NEWS FLASH 6/30/2014:
FYI, this matter will be discussed at the next Jupiter Town Council meeting, this Tuesday, 1 July 7:00 PM. If you know anyone in Jupiter, encourage them to attend. See http://www.jupiter.fl.us/AgendaCenter/Regular-Meetings-4
Beached in Jupiter
I asked Beached in Jupiter to keep us posted and these links were sent:
Tcpalm.com is probably doing the best news coverage of this issue. They have editorial position against AAF.
Palmbeachpost.com also covers but more of a pro AAF position. Miami to WPB favors trains; Jupiter north mostly oppose.
FTL marina industry very opposed due to blockage of New River most of the day. Will kill marinas.
A plan, supported by the Florida Governor, to create a high speed rail system from Orlando to Miami will use existing coastal railroad right of way. This right of way is the one which includes the Florida East Coast drawbridge in Stuart and train bridges on the New River, Loxahatchee River, and the St. Lucie River. This plan would include adding 32 ADDITIONAL train crossings a day. The current estimate is mariners could face bridge closings totaling 9-9.5 hours a day — particularly if locales are successful in slowing the trains down for safety reasons as they pass through the highly congested south Florida.
The dialog is highly polarized with jobs being balanced against revenue against safety. Because the issue affects Waterway Navigation, there is room for non-locals and non-Floridians in the dialog. For boaters and residents east and west of the bridges, the principal goal is to move the high speed RR to the west. Others want it stopped completely.
More can be found at:
Don’t forget the St Johns River bridges, especially near Sanford. They have a new commuter rail system there now.
If you’ll notice on the All aboard Florida [website above] there is no completion date. If it ever happens, it will not be any time soon.
Good overview by Chris and Janet Waln, thanks! And thanks Cruisersnet for helping to get the word out on this situation.
Chris and Janet are correct about the bridge closings; Jupiter Inlet District (JID, http://jupiterinletdistrict.org) has monitored and photographed all vessel transits and lift bridge operations at Loxahatchee crossing since January.
In April, JID recorded just shy of 8000 vessel crossings. Not much more than kayaks and dingys can pass under this bridge when down for train to cross; ~4 ft air draft at high tide. Average total bridge closure time was 19 minutes per train. With at least 2 passenger trains per hour and one or more freights, that’s not much time for vessels to pass.
Even if you do not navigate these rivers, this affects traffic on the ICW, as boats back up into the channel while waiting for the bridge to open. Currents at this point can be quite strong with tidal flows, so accidents are a concern. Less experienced skippers may find it difficult to hold position for 20+ minutes. See https://firstname.lastname@example.org,-80.0897772,16z
The St Lucie bridge is especially problematic due to the great number of vessels moored and berthed in marinas upriver, west of the bridge. With the bridge down most of the time, boaters may be limited to only a few brief crossing times each day. See https://www.google.com/maps/place/St+Lucie+Riveremail@example.com,-80.2676983,1258m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x88dee87938e18c99:0xc036915cb56e0c0a
The RR bridges are ~90 years old and in poor repair. see http://captainkimo.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/florida-east-coast-train-single-engine-crossing-railroad-draw-bridge-jupiter-florida.jpg. RR begins lowering bridge 15 min before trains are due, to make sure they have time for emergency stop without ending up in Loxahatchee, in case it doesn’t work.
Even without passenger service, increases in freight are expected. Freights of course are slower and longer so bridge impacts are even worse.
Draft EIS (for the $1.6 Billion taxpayer guaranteed loan) is due for review something this summer; will be available from Federal Railway Administration (https://www.fra.dot.gov/Page/P0672). Public comment is limited to 75 days so many winter cruisers will likely never know about it. Informal networking is critical to inform the boating community.
More info at http://www.tcrpc.org/special_projects/AAF/AAF4.html,
Beached in Jupiter