All Aboard Florida aims to be first privately owned, operated, and maintained passenger rail system in the United States. Preliminary estimates say the project will remove 846,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide air pollution removed from the atmosphere each year.
By Jacob Engels
If you pay taxes, then you – like me are sick of private companies & billionaires raiding the reserves instead of using their vast wealth and equity to finance new projects.
In a rare occurrence, a privately owned and funded high-speed passenger rail project that will connect Orlando & Miami, called All Aboard Florida is breaking that stigma. All Aboard Florida is seeking to create the nations first (in decades) privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system – and they don’t want a cent of FREE cash from taxpayers to complete the project.
All Aboard Florida, which is being developed by Florida East Coast Industries – owns Florida’s most prominent and well-placed passenger rail corridor. When complete it will provide transportation from Orlando to Miami, with intermediate stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
It will cost $1.5 billion to construct and another $2.5 billion for developing land and corridor assets. That would keep 3 million cars a year off the road. That’s 846,000,000 pounds of carbon dioxide air pollution removed from the atmosphere each year – which means cleaner air. The sleek AAF trains aren’t noisy or stinky – they are sleek and modern.
This isn’t to be financed with government handouts or subsidies. Some Tea Party crazies are spreading that fiction. AAF must come up with millions in equity.
It’s seating accommodations will dwarf those of most first class seating arrangements on major airlines – with pricing markedly lower for travel to and from Orlando & Miami. It will be much faster than traveling by car and as fast if not faster than traveling by air.
Users of the high-speed passenger train are expected to slash 25% to 30% of total travel time. All Aboard Florida stations in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Orlando will streamline access to local transportation. You will be able to continue your travels by bus, tri-rail, or taxi as soon as you disembark.
Unlike Sunrail (Central Florida’s government funded rail boondoggle) All Aboard Florida trains will allow food in the cabin and provide a menu of gourmet meals. Free WIFI will also be included. Initial projections show that over 6,000 temporary construction jobs will be created as a result of the 240 mile rail that will stretch from Orlando to Miami. 1,000 permanent jobs will be created for those Floridians put in charge of the maintenance and operation of the high-speed passenger train.
Initial assessments have found that the All Aboard Florida high-speed trains have no significant impact on Florida’s environment. Approximately 3 million people annually are expected to utilize the train, which will reduce carbon monoxide emissions and the carbon footprint of riders.
The reduction of automobile use amongst the 3 million projected early users and future users is expected to slash BILLIONS from highway maintenance costs.
Right now, you are probably wondering…..”Who could be against this project and for what reasons?”
AAF seek loans from a Federal fund in place for Railroad Development-not a hand out, not subsides. They are required to pay it back 100 %. This is a main area of contention amongst the anti- All Aboard Florida forces.They contest that this loan is in fact an unfunded use of taxpayer money and that AAF is seeking to cling to the government tit after all.
A government efficiency and accountability expert who has been involved in the process and has advised both AAF and the local governments contests those claims.
“Programs like the RRIF require companies like All Aboard Florida to pay back the amount in full, plus interest. No – this IS NOT an unfunded mandate or blank check written by the Feds and being payed for by taxpayers.”
They asked to remain anonymous.
An internal source with All Aboard Florida said that the RRIF is one of many debt and equity financing options currently being explored.
“It (RRIF) will be part of our overall capital structure and included a significant private investment and will be capped at the level that can be sustained by our current financial model.”
This source also confirms that the federal government has hired an independent financial advisor familiar with the RRIF and loans like it. All Aboard Florida, not the taxpayers will pick up the tab for this independent analysis.
Opponents of All Aboard Florida also claim that the project is unsafe because of the trains speed and has the potential to create unwanted noise pollution in areas surrounding the track. According to an inside source familiar with All Aboard Florida’s interaction with local governments, the Federal Railroad Authority, and the Florida Department of Transportation – this is simply not true.
“All Aboard Florida has agreed to cover the costs of safety improvements deemed necessary by FDOT and the FRA. They have also agreed to fund “quiet zones” requested by local governments.” Crossing safety upgrades are paid for by AAF-not taxpayers.”
With All Aboard Florida, we in the Sunshine State have a real shot at improving alternative transportation. We have an opportunity to get cars off the road, decrease their damage to our roads and environment, and a shot at having a quick – classy – and cost effective way to get around our state.
I hate when people use the word progress without cause…..but in this case – the time for progress is now. For once, I actual want a train in my back yard and that’s saying A LOT.
Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org