INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — As the Federal Railroad Administration prepares to hear county residents’ views on All Aboard Florida at a Nov. 5 hearing, county commissioners aren’t waiting that long to express theirs.
“I believe at this point we ought to make a statement against the All Aboard Florida project,” Commissioner Bob Solari said.
In a 5-0 vote, Solari and his colleagues asked County Attorney Dylan Reingold to draft a resolution against the passenger rail project in time for the commission’s Oct. 7 meeting.
The commission initially was in favor of the project. That was when it was billed as a private enterprise, Solari said. Commissioners earlier this year shifted to neutral after learning of All Aboard seeking a $1.6 billion federal loan.
By 2017, All Aboard expects to send 16 trains a day on 235-mile round trips between Miami and Orlando. The only stops on the way would be in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, with trains traveling straight through the Treasure Coast at speeds up to 103 mph.
The project is estimated to cost about $2.25 billion. Part of that would be a $1.6 billion federal loan from the Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing program.
Solari, who made the motion, said he had various criticisms of the project but now is focusing on what he said was All Aboard’s failure to be up front with the public.
For instance, he said, All Aboard Florida officials have insisted their project is about passenger rail, not freight. Yet Rusty Roberts, vice president of All Aboard Florida’s owner, Florida East Coast Industries, has represented the freight side in meetings with Florida Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, Solari said.
All Aboard Florida officials couldn’t be reached for comment. In the past, they have objected to the federal loan being described as a subsidy.
Chairman Peter O’Bryan pressed Solari on whether he would be open to the company mitigating his concerns.
“Or do we just want to shoot and kill the project?” O’Bryan asked.
For now, Solari said, he just wanted to issue a resolution against the company, not try to block further rail work.
He said he could support an expansion of the freight line if Florida East Coast Railway used its own money.
“Freight is commerce. We need commerce,” he said. “What we don’t need is to subsidize wealthy tourists going from Orlando to Miami. I find that thought itself an abomination.”