Martin County pledges another $850K to fight All Aboard’s Brightline
Posted on February 9, 2016
By Jennifer Sorentrue
Martin County commissioners on Tuesday pledged an additional $850,000 to continue their legal fight to block All Aboard Florida’s Brightline train service, which is set to begin shuttling passengers between Miami and Orlando late next year.
County officials said the money would be used to oppose AllAboardFlorida through various means, including covering the cost of ongoing legal action.
The decision brings the county’s total allocation in its fight against the rail project to $2.2 million.
“This is not the time to waver or demonstrate any sign of weakness,” Commissioner John Haddox said before Tuesday’s unanimous vote. “Now is the time, and today is the day, that we take a strong stance and a firm resolve to continue to oppose All Aboard Florida.”
In a prepared statement Tuesday, an All Aboard Florida spokeswoman said the commission’s action would not slow the project. All Aboard plans to run 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando, with stops in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale.
A rendering of what the trains - now called BrightLine - will look like. (Rendering provided by AAF)
“It’s unfortunate that enormous amounts of public dollars continue being spent fighting a project that will improve Florida’s mobility network, create jobs and generate economic growth throughout the entire state,” the statement said. “Today’s decision will not affect our progress as we continue to build our system toward the initial service launch in 2017.”
Last year, Martin commissioners agreed to set aside $1.4 million to fund opposition efforts, including a federal lawsuit the county filed last year challenging a federal decision authorizing Brightline’s parent company, All Aboard, to issue up to $1.75 billion in private activity bonds.
In September, Martin County filed a petition in Orange County Circuit Court challenging the Florida Development Finance Corp.’s April decision to allow All Aboard Florida to move forward with the bond issue.
The company had planned to sell the bonds in 2015, but the tight municipal bond market forced the officials to shelve the sale.
County officials said Tuesday that roughly $217,000 of the $1.4 million has not been spent, although some of the money has been allocated for various efforts.
Last week, Indian River County commissioners voted to hire a private attorney to look for ways to challenge All Aboard Florida’s application for a water management permit. All Aboard needs the permit in order to complete track work along a 67-mile stretch through IndianRiver and Brevard counties.
Since 2014, Indian River County has set aside more than $2.5 million to fight the rail project.