Friday, April 20, 2012

Amtrak, All Aboard Florida: We can co-exist

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Far from being threatened by Florida East Coast Railway's All Aboard Florida passenger rail proposal, Amtrak has signaled that the service would be welcomed, and even offer symbiotic benefits to the national rail passenger carrier.

"We're pleased to hear about All Aboard Florida," Amtrak Government Affairs Director Thomas "Todd" Stennis has said. "Passenger rail is truly beneficial for everyone. The (All Aboard) and Amtrak projects are different projects with different interests. Both operations will benefit everyone on the FEC corridor."

Taking a similar cordial tone in turn, All Aboard Florida spokeswoman Christine Barney says, "There is nothing about All Aboard Florida that would preclude the Amtrak project from operating ... We see 50 million people currently traveling the highways (between Orlando and Miami) each year."

FEC intends to launch intrastate passenger rail service initially linking Miami and Orlando, though FEC would have to build 40 miles of new track to its destination in Orland. Longer-term plans include extending service to Tampa on the state's west coast and north to Jacksonville. The limited-stop service would offer an option to both business travelers and tourists.

Those plans, however, do not preclude a reroute of one of both of Amtrak's Silver Service trains along the FEC right-of-way, which hugs the Sunshine State's eastern coast and potentially serves a much larger population.amtrak logo

Amtrak service would take state-owned track from Miami to West Palm Beach, switch over to the FEC track, then stop at new stations in Stuart, Fort Pierce, Vero Beach, Melbourne, Cocoa, Titusville, Daytona Beach, and St. Augustine before rejoining existing Amtrak service in Jacksonville. Florida has identified $118 million for the potential Amtrak service reroute.