This done deal is coming undone

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  • For more than two years All Aboard Florida has made every effort to convince the public that its rail project is unstoppable. Many in the media have even called for surrender.

    Then, last month a U.S. District Court judge ruled against All Aboard Florida. Treasure Coast counties are now allowed to proceed with legal challenges to the permits issued to All Aboard Florida. The deal is not done. Forget the white flags.

  • Federal and state agencies soon will receive a new suggested route for All Aboard Florida, one which would skirt Martin County yet still cut through other areas of the Treasure Coast.

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    On Wednesday, September 14, Martin and St. Lucie counties filed a Petition with the South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD) seeking a hearing on the proposed issuance of an environmental permit for the All Aboard Florida (AAF a.k.a Brightline) high-speed passenger rail project. SFWMD proposed granting AAF the permit for construction of railway facilities in Palm Beach, Martin and St. Lucie counties. The SFWMD Environmental Resource Permit is required for development or construction activities to prevent flooding, protect water quality from stormwater pollution, and protect wetlands and other surface waters. It also must address impacts on listed species, cultural resources, public health and safety, and the overall public interest of the project. 

    Martin County is concerned that if AAF receives its permit, it will lead to the loss of wetlands, degraded water quality, potential harm to threatened and endangered species and other detriments to the community. "Martin County is committed to reducing the negative impacts of the AAF project. That's why we filed this petition, in our continued effort to protect the natural resources and quality of life of our residents," said County Attorney Michael Durham.

  • All Aboard Florida ignored a viable western railway corridor — one that would take Brightline passenger trains away from Martin County coastal communities — when preparing its federal environmental report, according to an engineering consultant for the county.

  • All Aboard Florida’s plan to operate regular passenger train service between Miami and Orlando is in jeopardy following a federal judge’s order questioning the company’s ability to borrow $1.75 billion in taxpayer-backed federal bonds to pay for the project.

    At the same time, in a lawsuit filed by two Florida counties looking to block the project, the judge found that the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) ignored federal law when it issued bonding authority for Phase II of the private rail project from Cocoa to Orlando.

    Another hearing in the case is set for Sept. 13, the same day DOT and All Aboard Florida (AAF) must file their formal answers to the complaint.

    Phase l of the ambitious project, creating a passenger route and terminals at three stops along the Florida East Coast railroad line between Miami and Cocoa, is well underway. It is Phase II that is now precarious.

    AAF, whose parent company – Florida East Coast Industries – is owned by the hedge fund Fortress Investment Group, approached the state more than two years ago with a plan to build and operate a privately owned railroad that would allow passengers to travel from Miami to Cocoa and from there to Orlando. AAF claims that trains would shave at least an hour off the drive time by car.

  • Federal Judge concludes AAF project not likely to move forward on the Treasure Coast without bond financing. Judge Cooper denied DOT and AAF's motions to dismiss Martin County's National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) claim.

    This conclusion, based on information and documents obtained by Martin and Indian River County attorneys in lawsuits to invalidate the federal government's decision to approve tax-exempt private activity (PAB) bond financing for AAF, led Judge Christopher R. Cooper to reconsider his earlier decision that the Counties will not be harmed if bond financing is not available to AAF. 

  • First, let's thank the (TCPALM) editorial board for pointing out one of the many life threatening aspects of AAF. But let's clarify the situation...a corporation owns the railroad and in the 1960's they pulled up the 2nd set of tracks - cutting costs.

    Now with the widening of the Panama canal, the excess of Natural Gas and Fortress LNG production and all of the other cargo moving on FEC AND the properties of Flagler Real Estate (Fortress) gaining in value with the prospect of AAF passenger stations - the CORPORATIONS want to add back the tracks to add AAF AND make more money off of freight. They want to put 21st century cargo and speed trains on the 100 year old infrastructure. There is a large number of crossings on this "historic" route including many private crossings.

  • Maybe this will give you some indication as to why the county needs to hire consultants now and again (see link below).  Of course, they could not worry about the lives of residents or our environment and just toss these reports and forget about it.  Fortunately, a strong majority of taxpayers want the county to use every means possible to stop the trains including the legal efforts. So much so, that they’ve given their hard earned dollars to private organizations to help even more. (Oh right, you’ve noticed this.)

    TC Palm has not reported on a number of issues including the firm that developed the ridership numbers used in this report has been found to be unethical, been banned by international financial firms and a principal has been convicted of fraudulent activities involving federal government contracts. The firm is even used for projects by the DOT – amazing how that works!

     

  • Along a 200-mile stretch of Florida’s eastern coast, Fortress is embarking on its boldest project yet: the nation’s only purely private intercity passenger railroad.

    The project, All Aboard Florida, is expected to take five years and nearly $3 billion to build. At speeds reaching 100 miles an hour, it plans to eventually carry passengers from Miami to Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

    And if trains start rolling next year, as planned, and prove successful, the project may provide a template for private investment in public infrastructure for years to come.

    Yet this ambitious private project hinged on the blessing of government officials.

    The administration of Gov. Rick Scott of Florida conditionally agreed to lease out state property to All Aboard Florida, which plans to share the track with an existing freight train company. Federal regulators, after some initial concerns, concluded that the railroad’s safety plans met their standards. And a state-authorized nonprofit approved tax-free bonds that can help finance All Aboard Florida’s business.

News & Updates