As you are probably aware, I've been doing a lot of research on the Canaveral Port Authority and its plan to erect an 11-mile commercial railway through the Banana River Lagoon and Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. As the discussion heats up and more Space Coast residents are becoming interested I wanted to put together a summary of the information that's out there, and what it contains. Click on the blue links and they'll take you where you want to go. If you have any issues with links not working, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canaveral Port Authority
The Port's website is a great resource for what meetings are scheduled, as well as current and future plans for the Port like the projected fourth turning basin that is planned to extend into 50 acres of submerged bay bottom in the northern Banana River No Motor Zone (scroll down to Cruise Master Planning.) You can find all of the Port Commissioner's biographies and email addresses. Their phone numbers are not listed on the website.
The GULFTAINER-CPA Contract
This is the contract that was negotiated in secrecy with Gulftainer by the CPA under the name Project Pelican. It was negotiated and executed without any public input and guarantees operational rail by time certain dates (June 1, 2015 for rail-to-barge and Dec. 1, 2017 for direct cargo rail.)
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This is the company that started it all; GULFTAINERUSA, a wholly-owned subsidiary of UAE-owned GULFTAINER negotiated a secret, no-bid contract with the Canaveral Port Authority that guarantees rail by barge on or about June 1, 2015 with direct rail service to follow on or about Dec. 1, 2017. The contract was executed on June 23, 2014. This is the only facility that GULFTAINER operates in North America, and is considered key by them to continue their 12 percent annual growth of cargo capacity.
The National Surface Transportation Board (STB)
This website was set up by the STB and is important, because this is where the CPA sends people with questions about the Rail Project with the caveat that this is "the most current and update information on file" regarding the project. The STB is a federal board with broad oversight and exemption privileges, and can countermand virtually any government entity when permitting rail projects. It is charged with conducting the Environmental Impact Statement that will identify all of the challenges that the CPA must overcome to build its rail.
You can find the scoping comments and other documents that the STB is currently evaluating in putting a draft EIS together here. It's an interesting place. Here you'll find:
- Illustrations of the CPA's preferred rail alignment. Although they omitted the word "earthen berm" from the illustration, it clearly shows a 6,000-foot proposed causeway that juts out into the Northern Banana River.
- CPA's initial response to STB questions, dated Oct. 17, 2014 with preliminary designs for the Port’s preferred alignment. You'll also find here a chart that shows the planned train-size from CPA is 70 cars larger than what NASA has stated it would allow.
- STB Second Request for Information, Feb. 5, 2015. This is a second set of specific questions that the STB asked, wanting to know more details as to why every other route (except for the preferred routes that cut through the river) was not feasible.
- Response to STB’s Second Information Request, March 26, 2015, This is the Canaveral Port Authority response to the STB Second Request for Information.
- NASA Official Response, dated Jan. 9, 2015. This is the response that outlines exactly when, how big and how often the Port can run trains on the KSC rail in NASA's own words. The answer: No more than 3 per week, no more than 100 cars long (400 TEUs per train) and trains will on be permitted from sunset to sunrise. This means a total of 62,400 TEUs maximum volume — a fraction of what is predicted according to GT/CPA numbers.
- Department of the Air Force official response, dated Dec. 12, 2014. The USAF states there are significant obstacles to a rail line running through Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, but that the USAF is not opposed to studying the feasibility to determine if it could work. Unfortunately, such a line would connect with NASA rail, and KSC restrictions would still apply.
- USFWS Merritt Island NWR official response, dated Dec. 18, 2014.
- US EPA Region 4 NEPA Program Office official response, dated Dec. 18, 2014. This is one of the more interesting documents; in addition to having grave reservations over the environmental impact of the commercial rail project, the EPA also mentions an interesting tidbit about the repatriation of armored vehicles from the Middle East by the Department of Defense, citing that as a reason to work harder towards a CCAF alternative. Many of the vehicles, including M1A1 Abrams tanks exceed the lift capability of existing bridges on SRs 401 and 528.
- EI 20879 - USACE Jacksonville District Cocoa Regulatory Office official response, dated Dec. 19, 2014. This response is interesting, because if you look at page 2, paragraph 3, it mentions including possible impacts to surrounding US waters from expansion activities (proposed fourth turning basin extending into the Banana River on bay bottom deeded to CPA in 1963). If this were included in this EIS, the USACE would not be required to go back to the well for another EIS to begin evaluation and completion of that project.
- You can also find all of the other scoping comments for other agencies and groups here: State Agencies | Local Agencies | Tribes | Non-Governmental Organizations | Businesses | Private Individuals |Other | Public Scoping Meeting Transcripts
Former CPA Commissioner Sue Ford's Petition to Stop the Rail
Stop the Canaveral Rail Petition. Former Port Commissioner Sue Ford is no stranger to the spotlight. A firebrand during her time in office, Ford has been one of the most outspoken critics of the CPA in general, most recently regarding the expansion of cargo and rail.