BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. - County Commissioner Andy Anderson told a railroad official he thought a study promoting the positive economic impact to Brevard County from the proposed All Aboard Florida passenger train service was "the worst one I've ever seen as far as fabrication and spin."
He said the conclusions of the study, that the construction project would create more than 1,400 jobs in Brevard County for two years, "is probably the closest thing to Fantasyland at Disney that I have ever seen in my life," according to Local 6 partner Florida Today.
All Aboard Florida proposes running high-speed rail service from Orlando to Miami, with interim stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, starting in 2016. The trains would pass through Brevard County — 16 times a day in each direction — but not stop there.
During Tuesday's County Commission meeting, Anderson told the railroad official, Russell Roberts, to ask the study's authors to "amend it or quit smoking crack or whatever they're doing."
Roberts, vice president of corporate development at Florida East Coast Industries, defended the study's conclusions, adding that he would "respectfully disagree" with Anderson's criticism.
Anderson said, even if construction jobs are created for the new track being built from Cocoa to Orlando, he believes most of those jobs wouldn't be filled by Brevard County residents.
Roberts disputed that, saying Florida East Coast Industries, which is developing the rail line, is committed to hiring local contractors for the project for the sections within the eight counties along the 235-mile route. He said the Brevard County section of the route will require extensive track and bridge work.
During Tuesday's meeting, commissioners also defeated two proposals by Commissioner Trudie Infantini related to the rail project.
One was a resolution that would, among other things, call on All Aboard Florida to pay for all future maintenance work at railroad crossings related to the track expansion and upgrades. Local governments now pay the maintenance under agreements signed when the railroad gave permission for the roads to cross its right-of-way.
The resolution failed 3-2, with Anderson and Infantini voting in favor. Commission Chair Mary Bolin Lewis, Vice Chair Robin Fisher and Commissioner Chuck Nelson voted against the proposal.
Commissioners voting no said they wanted more information from the county attorney's office before supporting the measure, and wanted the issue to go before the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization.
Roberts told commissioners that All Aboard Florida would pay for track and crossing improvements. But it would not commit to future maintenance at rail crossings, saying that is the responsibilities of the counties and cities along the route.
Commissioners also did not support a second proposal by Infantini to have the county hire its own consultant to examine the environmental impacts of the All Aboard Florida line.
Three members of the public spoke in favor of that proposal, citing concerns about safety, noise, vibrations, road congestion and property values.
The rail line "will change the face of the coast and Florida," said Terry Senn, who was representing the Micco Homeowners Association. "Time is of the essence."
Infantini said the All Aboard Florida project "is not a good fit for the state of Florida. I think it's imperative that we go out and do something."
But no other commissioner backed the proposal.
Fisher said he wanted to wait for release of the All Aboard Florida environmental impact study, which is scheduled to come out in June.
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