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Politics

Will More Taxpayer-Funded Lawsuits Derail All Aboard Florida in 2017?

January 26, 2017 - 11:00am

In recent weeks, opponents of All Aboard Florida’s (AAF) Brightline project insist they have scored some major victories against the expansion of high-speed rail. Groups like Citizens Against The Train (CATT) have boasted the main reason why AAF’s expansion has slowed is because of  taxpayer-funded lawsuits against the project.

In an email earlier this month, CATT insisted, “ Our tax dollars have been well spent and the legal actions approved by our commissioners are making a major difference.”

But are the lawsuits actually working and slowing down the expansion process? That depends on who you ask.

AAF maintains it is continuing to expand and Brightline is on track. The company’s website chronicles the progress it claims to be making. As of December, Brightline’s first full train is complete and will be arriving in Florida soon. This first train will begin testing in Palm Beach County early this year. 

In addition, the stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach are 70 percent complete. The stations are undergoing interior work including HVAC, plumbing and other outfittings. At Miami Central, the installation of the Florida I-Beams (FIBS) for the elevated track is nearing completion. The three Miami Central office building have been topped off. Grade crossing improvements in Broward and Palm Beach counties are nearing completion.

But CATT and other opponents of the project insist this is just a smoke screen, that maintaining Brightline’s expansion is nowhere where it should be. CATT and other opponents insist their legal challenges have helped slow down the process. 

AAF counters that this is to be expected when dealing government agencies, even as their permits with government entities like the South Florida Water Management District and the St. Johns River Water Management District are going through. But none of this impresses the opponents who say they will continue the fight using taxpayer dollars to stop the train.

In 2016, Indian River County approved spending $3 million to go after Brightline. County Commissioner Tim Zorc says he continues to support spending more if it’s needed to stop the train.

In Brevard County, Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish, a proponent of the train, says he’s always been against using tax dollars against Brightline. 

“Can you imagine what my city could do with $3 million of the taxpayers money?” he asked. “We could fix the roads, hire more cops and ensure fire and safety for our citizens.”

Parrish also questions why elected officials are using public money to sue a train that will bring in jobs and revenue to the local economy.

Newly elected Indian River County Commissioner Susan Adams told the Republican Women of Indian River County that she does not support the train going through her neighborhood but that doesn’t mean she backs continued taxpayer-funded challenges to it. 

“If the county is not winning on the lawsuits and Brightline continues to expand, then we need to have a plan B and we should maybe reevaluate how we are spending taxpayers’ dollars,” Adams said. 

Ed Lynch, a resident of Palm Beach County and a political commentator for the Florida Radio Network, even questions the popularity of the public funded lawsuits against Brightline.

“Listening to the opponents of the train, you would think this is the biggest issue on the Treasure Coast,” Lynch said. 

Pointing to TC Palm’s top stories on the Treasure Coast for 2016, Lynch says if you look at them the “train controversy” didn’t even make the list.
 
Parrish told Sunshine State News he agrees and wonders why taxpayer funds are still being used to challenge the train project. 

“If this isn’t the big issue that some make it out to be, then why are some elected officials continuing to push through unpopular taxpayer-funded lawsuits?" Parrish asked. “Who's driving this narrative?”

Reach Ed Dean, senior editor at Sunshine State News, at EdDean29@yahoo.com

Comments

This passenger train idea is a FAIL in the making. These trains are notorious money losers. The urban trash end up using them to spread out to virgin territory to spread crime and disease.

I can't wait for the train! It's going to make my commute so much easier. I'll also be able to go to downtown Miami for fun much more often, and I'll certainly be spending money when I do. This is great for FL.

I agree. We need good public transportation between Miami, Orlando & Tampa. We live in Tampa area, our kids live in Orlando and my husband is an airline pilot based in Miami. We have traveled our country extensively and our state is so far behind other areas of equal size in other states. Our roads are jam packed and getting worse every day. GO BRIGHTLINE!!

Where to start??? In 2012, Congressman Mica said that AAF needed to be fast tracked in order to have it up and running by 2015. Tri-Rail which operates from Miami to West Palm - the same southern route as AAF - operates at a $80 million ANNUAL deficit. AAF tried to sell TAX FREE bonds for a year and NO bond fund would buy them. AAF was able to sell $405 million in junk bonds at 12% interest - wonder how that debt is working out for them? The mayor of Cocoa is delusional if he thinks that AAF or his county can afford to build and operate a train station without the market concentration to support it. Jobs - forget about it! AAF now says it won't get the northern portion up and running until 2019...wonder where they'll get the $Billion to do that. I'd say there are quite a few reasons why AAF will never build the northern portion - at least not through the Treasure Coast - and one main one is the law suits. Ed, get back to us in 2019 with a report.

I'm for train services in Florida to fall under the auspices of AMTRAK and a comprehensive system be worked out. We need public transportation not private transportation. Florida should have gone with the high speed rail project with funds available and unfortunately killed by the Florida governor. Lets get public transportation not private for profit underway and this should include busses as well. This would be an excellent use of public monies.

I agree that would be much better, but I'll take what I can get. Japan has private rail and it's fantastic.

Are you kidding? Everything Amtrak touches turns to toxic waste. Amtrak is like Pan American Airlines: It goes to more places no one wants to travel to than any other common carrier. In case you disagree, take a look at Acela. 16 years in and the railroad is proposing to replace all of the Acela train-sets. By contrast, the Amfleet Is that were designed for the NEC by the late Penn Central are still in service 50 years later and the AEM7 and GG3 locomotives had 40 to 50 year lives. As did the F40 locomotives that are now out of the fleet. Amtrak's cost structure is extremely bloated and no one can take even a butter knife to it on grounds some local political potentate might possibly be upset. We may need passenger rail, yes. We need Amtrak like we need an incremental hole in our heads.

THIS PROJECT ONLY BENEFITS THE PLACES WHERE IT STOPS, THATS IT, NO ONE ELSE. THIS RR REFUSES TO EVEN INFORM THE PEOPLE WHAT THE PROJECTED RIDE PRICES, AND SINCE ITS OWNED BY FRONTIER/FL EAST COAST, THEY SHOULD KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE PRICES ARE. ALL ABOARD WANTS TO USE BENEFITS OF THE TAXPAYERS. RICK SCOTT'S ADMINISTRATION HAS A VP FROM FL EAST COAST RR, NO WONDER WHY RICK SCOTT DENIED THE MONORAIL THAT WAS APPROVED BY TAX PAYERS PRIOR TO RICK SCOTT, AT LEAST CHARLIE LISTENED TO THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA. A MONORAIL MAKES MUCH MORE SENSE AND LESS NOISE. THIS RAIL (ALL ABAORD) WILL DESTROY THE PROPERTY VALUES AROUND THE RAIL, AND CREATE VALUE ONLY AT THE DOWNTOWN AREAS WHERE IT WILL STOP, IN THE MEANTIME MORE NOISE AND TRAFFIC WILL POLLUTE LOCAL NEIGHBORHOODS, INTERSECTIONS AND OUTLETS TO THE SEA. UPGRADING THE RAIL WILL MEAN THAT FLORIDA EAST COAST RR CAN NOW TRANSPORT MORE, HEAVIER AND TOXIC FREIGHT... THE SMARTER OPTION FOR ALL ABOARD WOULD BE TO USE THE WEST SIDE OF THE RR WHERE PEOPLE DON'T LIVE, BUT THEY DON'T CARE.

THIS PROJECT ONLY BENEFITS THE PLACES WHERE IT STOPS, THATS IT, NO ONE ELSE. THIS RR REFUSES TO EVEN INFORM THE PEOPLE WHAT THE PROJECTED RIDE PRICES, AND SINCE ITS OWNED BY FRONTIER/FL EAST COAST, THEY SHOULD KNOW EXACTLY WHAT THE PRICES ARE. ALL ABOARD WANTS TO USE BENEFITS OF THE TAXPAYERS. RICK SCOTT'S ADMINISTRATION HAS A VP FROM FL EAST COAST RR, NO WONDER WHY RICK SCOTT DENIED THE MONORAIL THAT WAS APPROVED BY TAX PAYERS PRIOR TO RICK SCOTT, AT LEAST CHARLIE LISTENED TO THE PEOPLE OF FLORIDA. A MONORAIL MAKES MUCH MORE SENSE AND LESS NOISE. THIS RAIL WILL DESTROY THE PROPERTY VALUES AROUND THE RAIL, AND CREATE VALUE ONLY AT THE DOWNTOWN AREAS WHERE IT WILL STOP, IN THE MEANTIME MORE NOISE AND TRAFFIC WILL POLLUTE LOCAL NEIGHBORHOODS, INTERSECTIONS AND OUTLETS TO THE SEA. UPGRADING THE RAIL WILL MEAN THAT FLORIDA EAST COAST RR CAN NOW TRANSPORT MORE, HEAVIER AND TOXIC FREIGHT... THE SMARTER OPTION FOR ALL ABOARD WOULD BE TO USE THE WEST SIDE OF THE RR WHERE PEOPLE DON'T LIVE, BUT THEY DON'T CARE.

Are you aware this "western" rail line is owned by another railroad?

The NIMBY movement is out in force using our tax dollars for their own pet peeve. Those that dislike change will always be out in force. Change is hard. The future is tough to deal with when you fear it. Adamant protestation is de rigueur today. From anti - Trump to anti - train, opponents yell, exaggerate, demean, obfuscate and very often lie. What a shame. Valid points are lost in their frustration to emotional ones founded on a shaky foundation of "feelings" and perceptions. Such is the basis of discourse in America today. Fortunately, wiser heads prevail and the future continues to be promising and the potential for a bright tomorrow is real. Light rail in Florida - yes. We need to opportunity to grow and we need all the transportation alternatives possible. The influx of new visitors and new residents will and must continue. And this process will be painful - but in the end, the results will be massively welcome. Florida needs the train. It is that simple.

I Fear that Not only Does The Treasure Coast NOT need Passenger High-Speed trains that Don't service OUR area, but there is reportedly a very Dangerous Plan behind this and Would involve the Primary Purpose to transport Hazardous and Flammable Tanker cars through our Backyards! If this proves true , it's not a question of IF a disastrous Catastrophic Derailment happens But WHEN! Stop this action as Lives depend on it! GBAm

Hope SOMETHING derails this "money-pit" that will be FOREVER subsidized by 'Taxpaying CITIZENS' (just like AMTRAK and EVERY OTHER commuter railroad across this country)...

Speaking from Indian River County, the question is not whether a high speed train is desirable. That might be great. The question is whether using existing track right of ways that go through the hearts of our communities is desirable. The answer is a very strong no. Dozens of passenger trains daily passing through the middle of our communities at high speed, plus an increase in daily freight trains, just does not work. By the way, no new jobs to be found here from Brightline. The trains will not even stop here. Good for Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Palm Beach. Maybe. Good for Orlando. Maybe. Good for the Treasure Coast. No. Think for the long term - 100 years and more. Move it west.

Anything that does not benefit me, this particular individual, located in a particular neighborhood in Martin County is by definition BAD and should be opposed by my elected officials. My neighbors should all pay to hire lawyers to support me in this. My definition of good and bad stops at the end of my street and I care nothing for larger questions of the environment, energy use, traffic deaths and injuries, air pollution or even private property rights. The entire question depends on how it affects me and my property and nothing else. Why do you find that surprising?

Hahaha best comment :D

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