Brightline could be just months away from preparing to expand its services north through the Treasure Coast and to Orlando, but is now offering a change in their plan that could make some opponents change their mind.
Many Treasure Coast residents have long opposed the train’s proposed path to the north, worried about safety concerns, traffic and the lack of convenience for people living on the Treasure Coast.
No stops were planned anywhere between Martin and Indian River County.
But now, Brightline said it could consider adding one or more Treasure Coast stations.
In a letter sent to the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council from Brightline’s Vice President of Government Affairs, Russel Roberts, Roberts said plans are underway for the installation of new rail infrastructure and reconstruction of highway-railroad crossings, with substantial safety enhancements. That includes an investment in heavy maintenance to the movable bridges over the Loxahatchee and St. Lucie Rivers, Roberts said.
In the same letter, Russel said Brightline is now exploring the feasibility of a Treasure Coast station or stations.
Brightline asked city managers from Vero Beach, Fort Pierce, Sebastian and Stuart to identify viable station locations. It will be key, however, that the cities show support for these stations and are invited by Brightline to potentially construct them. The would not be constructed without interest from local leaders.
Stuart City Attorney Michael Mortell introduced the idea to commissioners Monday.
“I know that there are a lot of people concerned about a train coming through the Treasure Coast, but it appears that the train is going to come through either way. So, if in fact, we’re going to have the tracks, it would benefit Stuart to at least have a stop on the tracks so that we could participate in the transportation to and from the airports as well as South Florida and Orlando," Mortell said.
Mortell said he would have to put together an information packet to present to commissioners in September. They would decide whether or not to move forward with a possible station.
Brightline said it is giving the cities 60 days to pick a viable location for a possible station.
“In order to get a station, It’s very important that the commission express an interest that in fact it would encourage a station. That doesn’t say they’re excited about the train. But, in the event the train came, they would need to request a station,” Mortell said.
One resident said the possibility of a station does not change his mind about the train.
“It would drive me absolutely crazy if I’ve got to deal with 32 trains a day. That’s why I sold my house on the other side of the tracks to be on this side closer to the hospital. I couldn’t imagine being stuck waiting on trains all the time,” said resident Chris Goosen.
Mortell said the train would be a very light impact.
“It’s not to be confused with freight trains," said Mortell.
Roberts also said Brightline’s safety and security team has begun meeting with first responders to review safety plans. Additionally, Roberts said the rail infrastructure team will soon begin meeting with county engineers to review crossing designs.
The operation is expected to begin in 2021.