The Palm Beach Post: Treasure Coast dedicates millions to fight All Aboard Florida
Posted on February 18, 2015
By Kimberly Miller and Jennifer Sorentrue – Palm Beach Post Staff Writers
Two Treasure Coast counties unanimously pledged a total of $4.1 million Tuesday to fight All Aboard Florida’s express passenger rail service, with one official going so far as to call the project’s progression un-American.
Commissioners from Indian River and Martin counties voted to allocate $2.7 million and $1.4 million, respectively, to oppose All Aboard Florida through various means, including possible legal action.
+Treasure Coast dedicates millions to fight All Aboard Florida photo LANNIS WATERS
A Florida East Coast train is stopped on the tracks at the crossing on 45th Street in West Palm Beach, October … Read More
“I’m prepared to say without reservation or hesitation that we should plan to spend today 1 percent of our annual budget fighting All Aboard Florida,” said Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari. “The proposed high speed rail project with trains going up to 110 mph along our Treasure Coast will deleteriously hurt our communities in ways we as yet don’t understand.”
In Martin County, Commissioner John Haddox said his motion requesting the funds was intentionally broad so commissioners could use the money for a host of items to fight the project. Commissioners will have to sign off again before any of the money is spent, he added.
“That is open-ended intentionally,” Haddox said. “It may be to engage an environmental firm. It may be to do a more in-depth economic study. It may be to engage a lobbyist. It may be to engage in legal action.”
The votes in Indian River and Martin counties came after dozens of speakers expressed their concerns about the addition of 32 passenger trains per day on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks. Just one resident of Indian River County spoke in support of the plan, with commissioners reminding the audience not to jeer.
All Aboard Florida, a $2.6 billion project connecting Miami to Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, has proved contentious in Northern Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast where residents expect few benefits from the increase in trains.
“We truly get all of the bad and none of the good,” said Indian River County Commissioner Wesley Davis. “This is being forced down the throats of the people in this community, we can’t vote anyone in or out of office because of it, and that’s just not American.”
Lynn Martenstein, vice president of corporate communications for All Aboard Florida, said in a statement that Tuesday’s votes showed the counties had “decided upon a negative course of action regarding their engagement with All Aboard Florida.”
“The company is hopeful that a more positive and productive forum can be found,” she said. “We remain open to exploring a future station to serve communities in the Treasure Coast and bring the direct economic benefits of this important new transportation system to area residents and visitors.”
The counties’ opposition joins that of such private groups and grassroots organizations as Citizens Against Rail Expansion, Citizens Against the Train, and Florida Not All Aboard.
Neither of Tuesday’s requests were written as formal agenda items. The lone Indian River County resident who supported All Aboard Florida during public comment questioned why details weren’t provided in meeting materials.
Solari said he’d been speaking publicly about his plan to ask for money to fight All Aboard Florida since December.
In Martin County, Commissioner Anne Scott said it is important for officials to have flexibility to be “reactive,” noting that All Aboard Florida is a private company.
“All Aboard Florida’s plans are secret,” Scott said. “I can’t even imagine what they are up to next.”
While All Aboard Florida sold $405 million in private high-risk bonds last year to pay for construction between Miami and West Palm Beach, it is still waiting on approval from the Florida Development Finance Corp. to market $1.75 billion in private activity bonds to pay for work between West Palm Beach and Orlando.
The Federal Department of Transportation has tentatively approved the use of the bonds, but the Florida Development Finance Corp. will act as the conduit issuer.