Brevard County Commissioners to rethink high-speed rail service

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – The more Brevard County commissioners hear about All Aboard Florida's plan for passenger rail service from Orlando to Miami, the more they are concerned about it.

The trains would pass though Brevard County 32 times a day, but not stop in the county, according to Local 6 news partner Florida Today.

So when commissioners heard five people address the issue during Tuesday's commission meeting, they decided to take a closer look at the issues of safety, noise and the potential expenses the train service would bring to the county.

Commissioners plan to bring the issue before the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization on May 8 for a full discussion, then consider whether to take a stance formally opposing plans for the privately funded rail service during their own meeting on May 13.

"I was originally in favor of the train," Commissioner Trudie Infantini said. But after she learned more about the project and better understood its ramifications, Infantini said, she now plans to propose a resolution to the Transportation Planning Organization to oppose it. The Transportation Planning Organization consists of 19 local elected officials, including all five Brevard County commissioners.

All Aboard Florida officials, however, last week told FLORIDA TODAY's editorial board that they don't need regulatory approval from Brevard County or its municipalities to begin their service.

All Aboard Florida officials say there are no plans to establish an All Aboard Florida stop in Brevard County — at least initially — because they want to keep the time for the trip from Orlando to Miami at three hours or less. They say that's the "magic number" that makes it faster than driving and as fast as flying, when considering waiting time at the airports. The only interim stops planned are in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Peak train speeds would be 125 mph.

The corporate entities tied to Florida East Coast Industries that are running All Aboard Florida say they are paying for the needed track and crossing improvements. But they say it would be up to cities or counties if they want to pay for special equipment at crossings that would establish "quiet zones," eliminating the need for the train operators to blow the horn at crossings.

Brevard commissioners also have asked county legal staff to research the county's legal responsibility for paying to maintain rail crossings once they are upgraded and related licensing agreements.

Currently, counties and cities are responsible for paying for regular maintenance of railroad crossings, under agreements with the track owners, since the tracks were there before the roads.

All Aboard Florida officials say the 32 trains a day — 16 in each direction — would not be disruptive to motorists, because they are relatively short, with 10 cars per train. They say the trains would pass through a crossing in less than one minute, creating a traffic delay similar in duration to a traffic light.

Plans call for service to begin in early 2016. The first trains of the day likely would run from 6 to 9 a.m.; the last trains from 9 p.m. to midnight. Prices have not been announced.