By Ayn Marie Samuelson, Guest columnist for Florida Today
There are too many unknowns and hidden agendas to support All Aboard Florida's push for high-speed passenger rail by the newly incorporated Florida East Coast Industries, LLC (FECI).
FECI has applied for a $1.5 billion loan from the federal government under the Federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Program. Pretty clever to go for the big dollars at taxpayer expense and risk, with no track record of success and insufficient assets on its own to secure this big-ticket loan.
You've got to admire the global investment group behind FECI, searching for a real deal without taking responsibility to become a guarantor of the loan. In addition, passenger rail has repeatedly proven it is not financially viable without government subsidy, while defaulting on this type of loan may become an incentive for the FECI limited liability company, whose global investors stand to benefit greatly.
This is a project looking for failure on the backs of taxpayers nationwide.
With the sheer size and high risk of the unprecedented $1.5 billion loan, it's difficult to come up with any taxpayer benefits to this mega deal. On the other hand, the looming costs associated with All Aboard are easy to enumerate.
First, the expense of maintaining the railroad crossings will escalate for Brevard taxpayers.
Second, there would be increased risks to the health and safety of citizens think school buses and pedestrians crossing a track where trains speed past at 100 mph.
Third, there is the imminent loss of property values for parcels and buildings close to the tracks. And what about people living near enough to the tracks to hear and feel the rumble 32 times every 24 hours?
Fourth, there is the exceedingly dim short-term and long-term economic value for our residents, as these trains won't be stopping in Brevard.
Fifth, short-term and long-term employment are dreams. Doesn't track construction often begin at one or both ends of the tracks and continue along the rails until construction is completed? It would be unlikely that new crews would routinely be hired all along the route. It's more probable that workers would live and travel in railroad cars as track construction progresses.
Sixth, once the loan is in default and the FECI crumbles, the Florida East Coast Railway (FEC), which in reality owns the tracks, will benefit from our deep pockets. FEC and the global investors who own it will be well-positioned to run additional freight trains on the brand- new tracks between Orlando and Miami to pick up and deliver cargo coming through the Panama Canal.
If anyone can identify benefits for the taxpayers and residents of Brevard, please enlighten us. However, it's dubious that any benefits discovered will be sufficient to justify the costs.
We should be ready to voice a resounding "no" to All Aboard Florida. Barreling through Brevard doesn't benefit us.
Samuelson is a local business owner and president of South Patrick Residents' Association. She lives in Satellite Beach.