Treasure Coast not on board with train service

Opposition group helps Martin and Indian River counties challenge All Aboard Florida

Sep.September 26, 2015 10:30 AM

Rendering of All Aboard Florida’s planned Miami station.

Opposition to a planned passenger train service from Miami to Orlando has emerged in Florida’s Treasure Coast area, where the All Aboard Florida service would pass through but not stop.

Opponents of a planned passenger train service from Miami to Orlando have formed a group called Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE), based in the Treasure Coast area north of Palm Beach County.

CARE has helped Martin County and Indian River County to legally challenge the planned All Aboard Florida passenger train service.

Construction of All Aboard Florida’s downtown stations in Fort Lauderdale and Miami is underway, financing for the project has been arranged, and the train service is scheduled to begin in 2017.

CARE has questioned in court a $1.75 billion bond financing approved for All Aboard Florida  in August by the Florida Development Financing Corporation. The type of bond issue approved, Private Activity Bonds, is earmarked for private projects that benefit the public.

CARE has argued that the bond issue is a government subsidy worth $600 million because interest income on the bonds is exempt from taxation, and that All Aboard Florida is technically unqualified for the bond financing because it is not designed as a high-speed rail line. The anti-train group also has alleged that several members of the FDFC commission were not properly confirmed when the commission approved the bond issue.

In June,  federal judge denied a motion for an injunction that included similar claims, and the Florida Development Financing Corporation has stated that it expects to go forward with the bond issue.

All Aboard Florida would share a railroad with its sister company, Florida East Coast Industries, which carries freight on the tracks.  CARE claims that All Aboard Florida plans to install a double  set tracks on several parts of the rail line from Miami to Orlando so Florida East Coast can move more freight . CARE also claims increased train traffic will slow responses to emergencies and make grade crossings more hazardous.

Similar protests have affected rail development efforts in other parts of the country. Ranchers in Texas have protested the development of  a high-speed rail line between Houston and Dallas because it could disturb their cows. [Fortune] — Mike Seemuth

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