Yesterday morning, over 100 boats gathered at the Roosevelt Bridge in Stuart, forming a flotilla in opposition to “All Aboard Florida’s” high speed train which would close the bridges over the St Lucie River for unacceptable periods of time. A large red sign on Angie and Jeff Swenson’s boat read NO TRAINS.
(Above photo by Ed Lippisch and Scott Kuhns)
Just in case you are not familiar with the project, I thought today I would describe the basics of how All Aboard Florida’s father company, Fortress Investment Group, is structured, as the best ways to garner change, is to understand “how it works.”
We here in Martin County have certainly learned this with our St Lucie River/Indian River Lagoon Issues. In fact, the river issues have already galvanized our community so it has not been that difficult to do the same for the train.
In my opinion, in order to derail All Aboard Florida, there are two options: to stop the line at its source, (Orlando) or to get it to “go west.”
To begin with, one must understand the basic structure of Fortress Investment Group of which “All Aboard Florida” is part. Fortress consists of four divisions: 1. Flagler-the real estate entity; 2. All Abroad Florida-supposedely the first “private” rail system in America; 3. Flagler Global Logistics-a logistics solution group; and 4. ROW (Right of Way) Management Services.
Fortress Investment Group: (http://www.fortress.com/Default.aspx)
All Aboard Florida (http://www.allaboardflorida.com)
Keep in mind, Florida southern rail lines now consist of three main parts: 1. the Cocoa/Melbourne area to Orlando line or Highway 528/the money for the Orlando Train Depot; 2. the Florida East Coast Railway tracks that run from Jacksonville to Miami (the ones that go through Stuart) and 3. the CSX tracks that run west from West Palm Beach to Orlando.
Now we must go back in the story a bit to get perspective. Last year, “All Aboard Florida” was able to secure the right of way along Highway 528 from approximately Cocoa to Orlando, to lay tracks to the Orlando airport. Fortress had to get a “right of way” from the Florida Department of Transportation to lay tracks in order to do this. On top of this a bit later, they were granted funds from the state of Florida to build a rail “depot” station at Orlando International Airport. This Orlando element is actually the “All Aboard Florida” piece even though we keep using it for “down here.”
The second part of the puzzle, the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, are historical and owned by Fortress, these tracks run from Jacksonville to Miami. There is nothing we can do about this, except be vocal or rip the tracks out which would not be a good idea.
And last are the CSX tracks. These tracks run out west away from “us” starting in West Palm Beach and going to Orlando; they are not owned by Fortress. They are owned by another company called CSX, a cargo company. At this point, there is no plan to purchase these tracks to send the All Aboard Florida project west to Orlando rather than through our eastern cities.
In summary, it is clear that the only reason All Aboard Florida is “going south” at all is because the state of Florida has supported Fortress Investment Group with the Cocoa to Orland piece, Highway 528, and the building of the train depot in Orlando. This is the piece/s that must be derailed. I am not sure how to achieve this, however, if the northern piece goes kaputt so will the journey south-east.
Train travel is actually a great benefit for people and the environment, having lived in Europe, I can attest to this. Nonetheless, the present All Aboard Florida plan is unacceptable with its negative effects on property values and businesses west of the Roosevelt Bridge, particularly the marine industry. Let your local delegation know how you feel. We are important to them, between the river and the train, we have a lot to say about their reelection, and believe me they need us.
LOCAL DELEGATION TO WRITE:
Fl. Senator Negon: email@example.com
House Rep. Harrell: firstname.lastname@example.org
Fl. House Rep. Magar : email@example.com
Fl. Governor Scott: firstname.lastname@example.org
US Congressman Murphy: email@example.com