The TC Palm: All Aboard Florida isn’t as privately financed as it’s been saying

Posted on January 26, 2015

By Eve Samples


All Aboard Florida wants to have its federal money and deny it, too.


A week after our newsroom’s Arnie Rosenberg broke news that the passenger rail’s sister company received millions in federal cash “to improve railway-highway grade crossings and to prepare the corridor for growth in rail traffic,” the firm’s bigwigs still refuse to discuss the matter.


What could they possibly say?


The revelation contradicts the narrative they’ve been peddling. Since it debuted in 2012, the Coral Gables-based company has sold itself as a pillar of free-market capitalism.


“We just ask that government get out of the way,” said Rusty Roberts, the company’s vice president of corporate development, during a state Senate hearing in 2013.


Now we’ve learned — from its own words — that the company has received millions from taxpayers to prepare for an expansion of rail traffic, “including the introduction of passenger service.”


Don’t take my word for it. It’s spelled out in an Aug. 15 filing with the U.S. Department of Transportation and in documents filed with the Florida Department of Transportation.


Read them yourself on, where we’ve uploaded the documents.


Here are the highlights:


Since the 2011-12 budget year, Florida East Coast Railway took $878,665 for improvements and upgrades in the three Treasure Coast counties. The money is part of $12.2 million from a federal rail maintenance program administered by the state and paid to Florida East Coast Railway for work along Miami-to-Jacksonville corridor.


What did the company have to say about this news?


“All Aboard Florida has not directly or indirectly received federal funds.”


No elaboration. No explanation.


Just one line of denial, sent via email.


On Thursday, I contacted All Aboard Florida’s public relations firm. I wanted to talk to a human being to find out how they can reconcile the document with their denial.


The Fort Lauderdale-based PR rep told me she could not be quoted. She spoke only on background. Don’t worry, you didn’t miss much.


On its website, All Aboard Florida touts itself as “the first privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States.”


But it’s hiding behind the bureaucratic jargon of the federal program it got the money from — Section 130 of Title 23 of the U.S. Code.


The money is used to make railway crossings safer and more efficient. It’s not a direct subsidy, but there’s no doubt it helps All Aboard Florida’s bottom line.


And who’s paying for it?


You and I.

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