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FEC Corridor

20 May 2010 5:43 AM | Stephen Sayles (Administrator)

Here are some comments from George Diller who attended a recent public work shop on the plan.

Last night I attended the Amtrak public meeting held at Titusville City Hall.  There were 73 people attending, the second largest turnout of any of the public meetings except for Daytona Beach that had 90.  The project representatives were from FDOT, their study contractor and Amtrak.  I felt it was well presented and they were quite well prepared for the questions they received.  There were only two detractors in the audience who tried a couple of times to take control of the meeting.  They were handled well and were not allowed to dominate, either by those running the meeting or by others in the audience.  Also attending were two Titusville city council members and two members of the Brevard County Commission.
 
It was stated that the trains could be running within three years from the time the federal grant money is received.  The FEC routing would be Jacksonville to West Palm Beach with improvements made to the short connector track between the FEC and the Tri-Rail (Seaboard) track.  The terminus is currently being planned as Miami International Airport.  While discussions have occurred about also running other passenger train service over the FEC line between West Palm Beach and Miami and between Jacksonville and St. Augustine, that is beyond the scope of this study and grant application.  FEC has expressed interest as eventual long term possibilities.  
 
Two trains are currently planned and would run at 79 miles per hour, up to 90 miles per hour in cross country rural areas.  The trains would not exceed 79 mph south of West Palm Beach because of the high number of crossings.  It was stated that service is planned using the two existing Amtrak trains Silver Meteor and Silver Star by adding equipment to them.  The trains would divide at Clifford Lane station in Jacksonville.  However, running one of the two trains as a separate stand alone train on its own schedule is also an option.  No other logistical details were presented.
 
In Titusville, four possible stations sites are being studied, two downtown, one south of town, and one at Space Coast Regional Airport.  I was surprised that the original FEC station in Titusville has been offered as a passenger station by FEC for lease, but not for sale.  They currently use it for the local freight agent, maintenance of way crews and the signal maintainers.  They have also offered other remaining FEC historic depots for lease if the cities want them.
 
More than one question was asked about whether the train would take bicycles.  The Amtrak spokesman said he had been asked that in two of the other public meetings as well and would certainly now be considering it based on the public input.  There were also questions from handicapped persons and seniors interested in using the train.  The crowd attending the meeting seemed to have a preference for using one of the two downtown locations because of the revitalization program and pedestrian walkways under construction for the historic downtown area.  They also liked the proximity of the Merritt Island Wildlife Refuge, and the fact that a soon to be completed rail trail using an abandoned FEC right of way terminates downtown near the two proposed sites.  The alternative to downtown seems most likely as the Space Coast Regional Airport site for a combination of reasons and will certainly be a strong contender, particularly because of its proximity to the main gate of Kennedy Space Center and strong residential population base both immediately to the north and the south.  A study commission of all four sites has started evaluations and the final recommendation will be made at the Titusville City Council meeting on June 8.
 
From the statements the Amtrak representative made, they clearly want this service to happen.  FDOT said FEC under Rail America is keenly interested in having the trains.  FDOT said this has been in their long term plan for the last ten years, but send money.  They also stated that the study most recently submitted lacked some definition and detail required to be awarded a grant the last time, but the FRA has shown a keen interest in helping to make this happen as part of the next financial grant package.  The Amtrak representative said Maine's documentation for extending the Downeaster from Portland to Brunswick was a good example for submitting a complete application. 
 
In concluding, the representatives said the best way to keep up with the progress is through the web site http://www.tcrpc.org/
 
George
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