IT'S CRUNCH TIME FOR ALL ABOARD FLORIDA

Publish Date: 
Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 9:15am

RICH CAMPBELL - TCPALM

The Super Bowl of transportation projects — All Aboard Florida's plan to run 32 daily passenger trains between Miami and Orlando starting in late 2017 — has entered the fourth quarter.

It's crunch time.

I wrote three months ago the marketplace is the final hope of Treasure Coast residents to stop All Aboard Florida. We've reached a critical juncture — where potential investors must decide if the project is worth the risk.

Let's hope potential investors read the fine print in the memorandum on the bond sale produced by Bank of America Merrill Lynch. It states: "A purchase of the Series 2015 bonds (All Aboard Florida) involves significant risk."

The memorandum details 24 pages of risks, including:

"The company currently has no revenues or cash flows and has never constructed or managed a passenger railroad."
"The company is not providing all the information that would be required if the company were being registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission."
The marketplace may be privy to what many of us have known, intuitively, from the start: Despite all the advantages All Aboard Florida possesses, including sympathetic state and federal agencies seemingly bent on facilitating completion of the project, it is a risky venture.

What if All Aboard Florida is unable to sell its tax-exempt bonds by Jan. 1?

Not quite.

The U.S. Department of Transportation could decide to extend the deadline. It has done so before and could do so again.

The rail company also has a fallback financing option still in play: a $1.6 billion Railroad Rehabilitation & Improvement Financing loan it has requested from the federal government.

Yes, the fate of this project could be decided in the next six weeks.

Then again, All Aboard Florida could get an extension to sell the bonds or secure the $1.6 billion federal loan.

If recent history teaches us anything, it's that All Aboard Florida gets what it wants and the concerns of Treasure Coast residents don't amount to a hill of beans.