SEBASTIAN – Indian River County, along with Martin County and anti-rail expansion group CARE FL, have filed a lawsuit to block phase 2 of All Aboard Florida.
Phase 2 would extend Brightline passenger-rail service through areas of Sebastian and Vero Beach to Brevard County. Indian River County officials are now attempting to block the expansion.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C. claiming federal officials failed to take a “hard look” at environmental impacts of All Aboard Florida.
The lawsuit accuses the U.S. Department of Transportation and Secretary Elaine Chao of violating the National Environmental Policy Act.
In addition, the Department of Transportation illegally approved financing of $1.15 billion of private-activity bonds for All Aboard Florida, the lawsuit alleges. The bonds lacked the approval of Martin, St. Lucie and Indian River counties, which is required by federal law.
Brightline responded to the lawsuit, citing the amount of money Martin and Indian River taxpayers have invested in the fight against the new railroad.
“This is the seventh lawsuit Treasure Coast counties have filed in order to stop a privately funded transportation project that is critical to Florida’s growth,” a spokeswoman said. “The anti-progress vision of the Treasure Coast has already cost taxpayers $7 million. Apparently, there is no limit to how much more taxpayer money they will waste.”
So far, Brightline passengers in West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, which opened last month, gave the railroad good reviews.
Passengers enjoyed the higher-speed railroad and called it a “brand new space-age train.” Most passengers say it’s nicer than first-class airline seat.
Brightline says it’s important to complete Phase 2 of the project, which is currently in dispute with Indian River County.
This project would upgrade railroad tracks between West Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach, and expand the train to the Orlando International Airport.
Brightline executives want to complete the project by late 2020.