Palm Beach Post: State board approves tax-free bond issue for Brightline expansion

Posted on August 29, 2018

By: Jeff Ostrowski , Palm Beach Post

Despite strong opposition from officials in the Treasure Coast, the board of the Florida Development Finance Corp. unanimously signed off on a $1.75 billion bond issue for the Brightline rail service.

Brightline asked the organization to approve a tax-free bond issue that will bankroll its expansion to Orlando.

During a hearing Wednesday in Orlando, proponents and opponents painted vastly different pictures of the private rail service.

Brightline Chief Executive Patrick Goddard and other supporters pitched the rail service as an economic boon and an antidote to gridlock on Florida highways.

“The bonds do not pose any risk to taxpayers,” Goddard said.

But officials from Martin and Indian River counties called the rail service a boondoggle that will spur traffic congestion and create a safety hazard.

“We know if they come through my community at 110 mph, there are going to be more fatalities,” said Peter O’Bryan, chairman of the Indian River County commission. “It’s basically a license to kill for All Aboard Florida.”

While Brightline trains have struck and killed pedestrians and a cyclist in Palm Beach County, many of those deaths have been ruled suicides.

Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reingold noted that Brightline’s ridership numbers have fallen far below its own projections. In a bond document in late 2017, Brightline predicted 2018 ridership of 1.1 million and passenger revenue of $23.9 million. During the first three months of 2018, Brightline said it carried just 74,780 passengers who spent $663,667 on tickets…

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