Martin County joins Indian River County and Congressman Bill Posey in requesting a time extension for the comment period of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE) permit application for the proposed All Aboard Florida (AAF aka Brightline) high-speed passenger rail project.
In a letter sent to the ACOE last week, Martin County requested an additional 30 days to comprehensively review the materials and provide substantive comments in response to AAF’s permit application. As outlined in the letter, the sheer breadth and size of the application and its materials and exhibits would make it impossible to properly evaluate it by the May 2 deadline. Martin County is seeking this extension so that staff can review the environmental as well as the engineering implications of the application.
The County has also requested the additional time in order to physically validate the proposed improvement and its impacts within the roughly 40-mile corridor and to address potential discrepancies and compare the 100 percent plans for highway/rail crossings that were recently received by AAF to the plans submitted to ACOA. The latest plans reportedly address many safety comments made by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) and could result in substantial deviations from the original application submitted to ACOE.
Martin County believes recent modifications to the highway/grade crossing plan have also altered the overall environmental impacts of the project. Martin County referred to a December 16, 2015 letter from FRA to AAF that indicates AAF made efforts to avoid and minimize safety requirements causing concern that there may be negative impacts to cultural and environmental resources that will also require further review and evaluation.
More time would also enable the County to evaluate and verify AAF’s water quality assessment and propose remedies to ensure they do not harm environmentally-sensitive local water bodies, wetlands and threatened and endangered species. There are roughly 20 at-grade crossings, an estimated five jurisdictional creek crossings and numerous culvert connections that all need to be tested, observed and validated.
Additionally, Martin County has asked that ACOE hold a public hearing on the application to address the many concerns raised by Martin County and other entities in an open forum so that impacted parties can have the opportunity to be heard.
Martin County is joined in these requests by Indian River County and Congressman Bill Posey (R-Melbourne), as well as others. In an April 22 letter to ACOE, Congressman Posey requested ACOE give “full and fair consideration” to the counties’ request for an extension. Martin County understands ACOE will render its decision on the requests for an extension by May 2.
For more resources and information on the many local and regional issues of concern relating to the proposed AAF passenger rail project, including presentations, studies, letters of concern to state and federal agencies and more, visit www.martin.fl.us