Bisnow: Florida's Brand-New Private Train Is Close To Running Out Of Money

Posted on August 1, 2018

By: Deirdra Funcheon, Bisnow South Florida

The privately funded Brightline train debuted in South Florida in January, to great fanfare that included Miami Heat dancers and a mojito bar. So far, Brightline trains have killed half a dozen people who were crossing its tracks — but that is probably not the service's biggest problem.

The deaths were chalked up to careless or suicidal people crossing the tracks and addressed with a public safety campaign. Meanwhile, a federal lawsuit and a daunting financial situation cloud the train's future.

Indian River County Commissioner Bob Solari told the Florida Bulldog that the train service — which currently runs between Miami and West Palm Beach and is planned to extend to Orlando — could run out of money in six months if it is not allowed or able to raise $1.15B through private activity bonds. It needs the money to build track and extend to Orlando. 

Brightline has already raised $600M through bonds, but a lawsuit filed against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration could prevent Brightline from raising the additional billion-plus dollars it seeks. 

“They only have $59K in unrestricted cash and their restricted cash barely equals their current liabilities,” Solari said after reviewing the company's financials. "It appears that they badly need the second bond issue within the next six months."

According to the Florida Bulldog, Brightline had predicted a $20M profit for the year, but an unaudited financial statement shows that it lost $28.2M in Q1. Brightline reported moving 75,000 total passengers and collecting $663,667 in ticket revenue during that time frame. 

A Brightline representative told the Bulldog that revenues did not match projections because service did not extend to Miami until May. She said the company does not comment on current litigation…

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