Eminent domain for All Aboard Florida trains?

Publish Date: 
Saturday, November 15, 2014 - 8:00am

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35 ORLANDO) - All Aboard Florida (AAF) wants to start train service from Miami to Orlando in early 2017, but they may end up needing help from the government to get there.  AAF President Mike Reininger met with the Central Florida Expressway Authority (CFX), then told FOX 35 they are raring to go.

"Pending the conclusion of the environmental process, we are poised to begin that process, that construction at the first available moment."

Construction has already started on stations in Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, but AAF has a big hurdle to overcome here in Central Florida. The company has not been able to secure three key pieces of land at the western end of the route close to the Orlando International Airport. Reininger told the Board the alternative is to place a single track in the median of the Beachline for the final three-to-seven miles of the route, something CFX Board Chairman Welton Cadwell believes is a bad idea. 

"Well for one thing, it would be a single track in the median. One accident, God forbid, both sides of the road would have to be shutdown, and then there would be no chance to expand that rail to freight or passenger or anything else."

All Aboard Florida Attorney Ken Wright told the CFX Board the answer is for the Expressway Authority to condemn the land, then take it using eminent domain.

"Can we condemn the property and then turn around and make it available for a private railroad operator? The answer to that is in the affirmative."

If that were to happen, AAF could then use the preferred route, just south of the Beachline on CFX property. We asked Welton Cadwell why the Authority would condemn, take, and buy land for a private entity?

"That swath of property, we were going to need that anyway."

The CFX plans to expand the Beachline to 10 lanes near OIA with or without an All Aboard Florida rail line in the corridor, and the agency has already set aside 16 million dollars for the land purchases. The plan is to lease that land back to AAF, but not necessarily for a profit. The Board instructed All Aboard Florida to keep trying to come to terms with the land owners to get the final four parcels, but let those land owners know the Board could and would use eminent domain if necessary.