FL: All Aboard Florida a Job Creator in Palm Beach County, Study Says

May 21--Palm Beach County is poised to gain more than 1,000 railway-related jobs and about $164 million in positive economic growth from All Aboard Florida, according to a report the company said it will release today.

The jobs would be generated through the construction and ongoing operation of the express passenger rail, which is proposed to run 16 roundtrips per day from Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

Statewide, All Aboard Florida will create more than 10,000 jobs during the rail line construction, generating $2.4 billion in income, the economic impact study estimates.

All Aboard Florida retained the Coral Gables-based Washington Economics Group, a consulting firm founded by economist Tony Villamil, to compile the report.

"Washington Economics Group's study quantifies the economic impacts generated as a result of the significant investments to be made by All Aboard Florida during the construction and subsequent operational phases of the project," a statement issued Tuesday said.

The report is expected to cover each of the eight counties affected by the passenger rail service and include economic information in a statewide context. The company released limited details to The Palm Beach Post on Tuesday.

Getting a station in downtown West Palm Beach is considered a boon for the city, which believes it will attract tourists, serve commuters and act as a base for more development.

But neighborhoods to the north and in the Treasure Coast are fighting the $2.5 billion project, complaining they will endure more trains without the benefits of a station. There are also concerns that more frequent intersection and bridge closings will impede motorists and boat traffic.

The trains are expected to travel 79 mph from Miami to West Palm Beach, and then up to 110 mph through northern Palm Beach County to Cocoa.

"This is a quality of life issue," said Bill Hall, president of the Jupiter Tequesta Hobe Sound Association of Realtors. "We've lived with freight trains, but if you add 32 trips a day, traffic will get clogged up. Tequesta literally gets cut in two."

Hall said he fears property values will plummet on homes along the tracks. An estimated 170,690 people in Palm Beach County live within 1,000 feet of the tracks.

"I'm all for economic development, but it has to be done the right way," Hall said.

All Aboard Florida has applied for a $1.5 billion loan from the Federal Railroad Administration. An environmental impact study is scheduled to be released in the next few weeks.

Copyright 2014 - The Palm Beach Post, Fla.