Tampa Bay Times Editorial on All Aboard Florida, State Money and Governor Rick Scott
Coral Gables, FL (July 24, 2014) – Yesterday, the Tampa Bay Times published an editorial that was full of
inaccuracies and misinformation.
All Aboard Florida has become a political football passed between political parties to campaigns to wealthy residents in gated communities. It has reached the point where we think it necessary to set the record straight.
Claim: All Aboard Florida was seeking special treatment from the governor’s office through Adam Hollingsworth.
Fact: Florida East Coast Industries (FECI)/ All Aboard Florida has not sought special treatment, nor has it been given any special treatment from the Governor’s office.
Adam Hollingsworth joined FECI as the President of Parallel Infrastructure, which is now a sister company to All Aboard Florida. At the time Adam joined FECI, All Aboard Florida did not exist. FECI was caught off guard and disappointed when he informed the company of his decision to leave, since he has been on the job only for nine months. Upon joining the Governor’s staff, Adam recused himself from all issues related to All Aboard Florida and, in fact any matters that dealt with FECI. Any further questions regarding Adam should be directed directly to him.
Claim: All Aboard Florida is set to benefit from $230 million in state investments, including money set aside for “quiet zones” along its rail corridor and a new multimodal terminal at the Orlando International Airport.
Fact: All Aboard Florida is not benefiting from any state grants.
The money the Florida Legislature allocated for quiet zones can only be used by local governments, not All Aboard Florida. According to federal statute, only local authorities with jurisdiction over the roadway can apply for quiet zone designation. Second, according to the Florida Department of Transportation, the funds allocated by the Florida Legislature can be used by any local governments across the state for any rail crossings impacted by train traffic. The funds are not specific to the Florida East Coast Railway Corridor.
The Florida Department of Transportation has already set the record straight on the Orlando International Airport Intermodal Station. The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which has been planning the facility since the 1990s, is the recipient of the funds, not All Aboard Florida. The station will serve many other forms of transportation, including SunRail, rental cars, ground transportation, a connection to the North Terminal and parking. All Aboard Florida has entered into a fair market lease agreement where the company will rent the space under the same terms applicable to all commercial users of airport facilities.
All Aboard Florida is a privately-funded, owned and operated endeavor. The company has not received any federal or state grants or commitments for operating subsidies.
All Aboard Florida has applied for a loan from the Federal Railroad Administration under the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing (RRIF) program. The loan will go through a rigorous underwriting process and will have to be paid back with private funds with interest. The loan will be fully collateralized and backed by All Aboard Florida’s assets, including rolling stock, tracks, and right of way.
Claim: All Aboard Florida is delayed for at least a year.
Fact: All Aboard Florida is not delayed. We have said all along that construction will commence on the Miami-to-West Palm Beach segment once the environmental approvals are in place. In fact, we are starting construction on the south segment in the next several months. We will begin construction on the segment north of West Palm Beach once the Environmental Impact Statement is completed and the Federal Railroad Administration issues a Record of Decision.
Claim: State transportation officials have enabled All Aboard Florida to hide behind exemptions in the public records law to avoid releasing some documents, including a ridership survey.
Fact: We are a private business that is developing a product with a strong, solid business plan. Just like any other company, All Aboard Florida is focused on keeping this information privileged and confidential. We are exercising our right to do so.
Further, the act of leaking the information from confidential bond offering documents was illegal. All potential investors who received those documents entered into strict confidentiality clauses with regard to not disclosing the information contained in the documents.
ALL ABOARD FLORIDA ATTEMPTS TO SET THE RECORD STRAIGHT
Saturday, July 26, 2014 - 8:30am