|A rendering of the All Aboard
Fort Lauderdale station.
The Florida East Coast (FEC) people today unveiled the new train station with which their All Aboard Florida train will serve downtown Fort Lauderdale. As anticipated, it is a lovely design – modern and glassy – and, as anticipated, there was a strong sell for how this new train will transform a tired neighborhood near busy Broward Boulevard. Long range, it should do a lot more than that, but let’s save that until we dismiss the bad news.
This thrilling presentation, enhanced by the fact that it was 100 degrees in the shade of a tent, and remarks from the speakers who would do well to study the Gettysburg Address, partly offset the news in today’s paper that the FEC has modified its timetable for its train. Initially, it will only run from Miami to Palm Beach, instead of all the way to Orlando. Apparently, there is a problem getting a new track built from Cocoa Beach to Orlando. But nobody mentioned that today.
And nobody mentioned what will likely be FEC’s biggest problem, which is the problem of getting people to accept the idea of a railroad doing what railroads were built to do: getting people and things as cheaply and quickly as possible from one place to another. Various speakers emphasized that this train would relieve congestion on the roads, but our prediction is that development sure to occur around the station will likely increase traffic before it relieves it. The development will bring in workers who live somewhere between Miami and Palm Beach, and nowhere near a train station.
Now, what should decrease traffic is the fact that Tri-Rail will almost surely move some trains to the FEC, where they should have been in the first place. The new station and surrounding development will be a draw, not just to downtown Fort Lauderdale, but also to Miami and communities in between. Ultimately, Tri-Rail will also head north, perhaps all the way to Jupiter. It even has picked locations for stations along the FEC track in Palm Beach County.
The bottom line is that the FEC is destined to become one busy railroad. Amtrak is also considering it. And already there is opposition from the marine industry that frequent bridge closings will hurt it, as well as residents near the tracks who object to the horns of trains at grade crossings. And, there is resistance to closing off some of those crossings, which is necessary to permit higher speeds.
Despite these challenges, and they sure are challenges, the long-term benefits of rebuilding the FEC into a modern transportation corridor will far outweigh the disadvantages. We have previously suggested a tunnel beneath the New River and Broward Boulevard (making the planned station partially obsolete before it is built). We happened to throw that idea out to two powerful builders this morning. To our surprise they did not ridicule the idea, although one said, probably accurately, “at least 10 years away.”
So what, the FEC wasn’t built in a day.