Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Vero Beach, Fla., eyes Amtrak-station sites

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The historic railroad station north of 23rd Street could be back in service for customers under proposed passenger rail service in the region, the South Florida Sun Sentinel reports. Other possible station locations being considered for Vero Beach include the area of downtown near Pocahontas Park and at the old Diesel Power Plant south of eastbound State Road 60. Possible start date for the service is October 2012.

The Florida Department of Transportation in July filed a pre-application for a $70-million grant for new rail service between Jacksonville and Miami along the state's East Coast. A formal application is expected to be made by October and the final grant number may be closer to $100 million.

The money would come from the federal government's $8-billion economic stimulus package for intercity passenger and high-speed rail projects.

Vero Beach, Fort Pierce and Stuart would be among the eight stops planned along the route, which would hook up with other routes in Jacksonville and take passengers all the way to New York. Initial plans are to have northbound and southbound trains daily, with up to 11 cars that would pick up passengers waiting along 1,000-foot-long platforms. The trip from Jacksonville to Miami is estimated to take 6.5 to 7 hours.

Amtrak passenger service had been proposed in 2002, but the idea was abandoned after the federal government ordered the rail service to restructure its debt.

Rail service, even in larger markets, has to be subsidized through tax dollars. Kim DeLaney, growth management coordinator for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council, said this is true for other transportation systems as well, with the highway system being the most subsidized.

One of the potential benefits of the service, DeLaney said, is a reduction of traffic on Interstate 95, which could lessen the need for further expansion of the roadway. Other benefits include economic development and a reduction in carbon emissions.

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