Finally Treasure Coast citizens and their representatives who have been fighting a high-speed rail line they say will diminish the region's quality of life, will get their chance to testify at a hearing in the nation's capital.
Dylan Reingold, Indian River County attorney; Dan Wouters, division chief, Martin County Fire Rescue; and Bob Crandall, CARE FL Steering Committee member will appear at 10 a.m. Thursday before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations. They will be speaking their minds on the U.S. Department of Transportation’s decision to issue PABs to finance the All Aboard Florida (AAF) rail project.
The committee, chaired by U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, will examine the tax-exempt private activity bonds (PABs) used for AAF’s Brightline passenger rail system. Two Florida congressmen serve on that committee, Republicans Ron DeSantis and Dennis Ross.
The review of the PABs was made at the request of Florida GOP Congressman Brian Mast in a letter to Chairman Meadows. Mast, who has been entirely supportive of his beleaguered coastal constituency affected by the railroad's plans, said in his letter, “Brightline is continuing their deceptive business practices, seeking public financing for this expansion by claiming that their passenger rail train is actually a 'highway' because they fail to qualify for public financing under the statutory definition of high-speed rail.”
Brightline currently runs in Florida from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach, and during its short life has been involved in six accidents in which people died. The company is planning to expand from Miami to Orlando, making no stops on the Treasure Coast, but increasing trains on the route, including more freight trains.
At Mast’s request, the United States Coast Guard conducted a survey, completed Feb. 28, to collect information about waterway use near the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee River railroad bridges. The survey is analyzing the potential impact that expanded rail traffic, including as a result of Brightline, would have on Treasure Coast boat traffic and could impact the extent to which Brightline is permitted to expand on the Treasure Coast.
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne; Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach; Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta; and Brent Hanlon, chairman of CARE FL will also attend Thursday's hearing.
To stream the committee hearing live, click here. Note that the video will not appear until the hearing begins.