Before setting aside money for a legal fight against All Aboard Florida, St. Lucie County commissioners say they need to see a plan for how the funds would be used. Residents have sent hundreds of emails to commissioners, urging them to follow Indian River and Martin counties, which last week allocated money for a court challenge to All Aboard, a private, $2.25 billion, high-speed passenger rail project. It would begin service from Miami to West Palm Beach by the end of 2016, extending service through the Treasure Coast to Orlando by early 2017.
The Martin County Commission approved using up to $1.4 million and the Indian River County Commission voted to spend $2.7 million to fight the project. St. Lucie has yet to pass a similar measure, though Commission Chairman Paula Lewis said the board remains “vehemently opposed” to the railroad.
“I am certainly not opposed to spending the money,” Lewis said Tuesday. “But the sum of money being discussed is a large sum and I would need to know how that money would be used.”
The other two Treasure Coast counties allocated money without having definite plans how it would be spent.
St. Lucie County’s legal team already keeps in contact with Indian River and Martin officials to discuss various legal actions, Commissioner Tod Mowery said.
Mowery said he thinks St. Lucie can make a strong case against All Aboard Florida by focusing on issues specific to St. Lucie and not taking a Treasure Coast approach.
Commissioner Chris Dzadovsky said he advocates “a divide-and-conquer approach,” to wear down the railroad.
“If (All Aboard Florida) had to create more battlefronts to fight three different lawsuits, then I think it would certainly get their attention,” Dzadovsky said. “To just arbitrarily throw money at something without a plan is just not in the best interest of our residents.”
All Aboard Florida officials issued a statement Feb. 19, characterizing the Indian River and Martin actions as “negative,” and holding out the prospect of a future station on the Treasure Coast if the dialogue turns “positive.”
“We remain open to exploring a future station to serve communities in the Treasure Coast, and bring the direct economic benefits of this important new transportation system to area residents and visitors,” said Lynn Martenstein, vice president of corporate communications, in the statement. “A good example of a positive dialogue can be found just up the coast. Brevard County has recently undertaken a productive process that could lead to its securing a future station.”
However, Lewis said, she doesn’t believe the company.
“For them to say, ‘Oh well, you could have a stop if you play nice,’ is a little bit disingenuous,” Lewis said. “No one has ever indicated to us that a station was ever a possibility.”