Train Wreck Times: Call to Action!
Posted on November 19, 2018
We said from the beginning, if All Aboard Florida/Fortress Investment Group doesn’t have over $1 Billion to pay for the construction of the second phase of the project, they will not be able to build the northern portion and will not be able to destroy our lives and livelihoods. It has been our goal to force them to use their own money for this PRIVATE venture and not taxpayer dollars.
We are at a critical time in the war with lawsuits pending in the District Court in Washington, recognition by congressmen that the train is inherently dangerous and does not qualify for Private Activity Bonds and a state funded consulting report which outlines the dangerous nature and financial improbabilities of the AAF project (click here to view). We have accomplished many things over the last four years including delaying the devastation BUT we have come to a crossroads.
The IRC county commissioners have called a special meeting this Tuesday, November 20, at 5pm to discuss the costs to fight AAF going forward. Everyone reading this must be at the meeting if at all possible! We need all hands on deck at the meeting to let them know this region cannot stop fighting!
IRC Special Call Meeting
County Administration Center, 1801 27th Street, Vero Beach
Tuesday, November 20, 5 pm
If you can’t make the meeting, please call or write the commissioners. Their email addresses are as follow:
Judge Cooper has called for oral arguments to be held on November 27th in Washington on the lawsuits still pending in the DC District Court. We hope to have his final decision within weeks of that date. We need IRC to continue to fund their legal efforts if an appeal is needed following the decision. With our strong case and the delays of an appeal, we can continue to pressure all of the state and federal agencies to recognize the dangers of the project and the negative financial picture.
Good News! Ron DeSantis won the Governor’s race and we truly believe he has heard our message. He will be appointing a new head of FDOT and can work with us on getting important legislation passed regulating passenger rail. But this will take time and that’s why we need to keep IRC and the other Treasure Coast players in the game.
Follow the Money: There are many financial issues for the two international conglomerates which now own the tracks and the passenger service – Grupo Mexico and Softbank. The attached report funded by the state outlines the dangers of the route. It also discusses the types of safety systems that SHOULD be required of AAF, driving up the cost of development. As is always the case with these projects, the $1.15 Billion in PABs will not be nearly enough to complete all of the upgrades.
The report also discusses the lack of regulatory oversight by FDOT when it comes to trains operating at 80 – 125 mph. We will need our elected state officials to champion strong laws in Tallahassee that will require the costly upgrades or the tracks be moved west.
Other related financing issues:
This article from August, 2018 outlines the deficit spending AAF is entering. With a prime example of Tri-Rail operating parallel to AAF with a deficit of $80 million per year, it’s easy to understand the skepticism of those who review the AAF financial projections. It’s obvious taxpayer operating funds will be needed in addition to taxpayer subsidies through the PABs or a RRIF loan.
The next article announced the new name for AAF – yes, another one – it will soon be called Virgin Trains US since Fortress has entered into a partnership with the Virgin Group, parent company of Virgin Atlantic airlines. We wait to find out just how much Richard Branson is kicking in. But, with the purchase of the rights to build the California to Las Vegas boondoggle and the cost of the Florida project, which now includes Orlando to Tampa, the $Billions are adding up.
We believe there are many other critical issues surrounding this complex project that must be addressed by FDOT, US DOT, FRA and other state and federal departments. They include:
- The plan to carry LNG to the major ports in FL connected via the AAF/FECR route.
- The dangers of HSR sharing tracks with hazardous materials.
- The use of tax dollars for the benefit of foreign corporations.
- The dangers of hazardous materials carried in proximity to national security targets.
We said this would be a “David and Goliath” story…and it surely has been. But we must not forget – David won in the end! We can do this but only if you stay the course and we lobby all of our elected officials to do what’s right. We hope to see you this Tuesday and in the meantime…
Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving…as we count the blessings of living in a paradise in the greatest country in the world!