All Aboard Florida (AAF) won big this week as U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper in Washington, D.C., threw out a “temporary halt” to allegations brought by Martin and Indian River counties that would temporarily stop the Florida Development Finance Corp. (FDFC) from issuing private-activity bonds to AAF.
This decision ensures the high-speed passenger train will have the bonds to finance the $1.75 billion railroad from Miami to Orlando.
In the 21-page decision on Wednesday, Cooper dismissed the allegations by the two counties for “lack of standing.” The court stated that Martin and Indian River counties "stumbled" in proving their point as to what harm would come from the issuance of the private-activity bonds (PABs) and they could not even establish a relationship between bonds requested by AAF and any alleged harm.
The court also concluded that withholding issuance of the PABs would not redress the counties’ alleged environmental injuries.
All Aboard Florida officials said they were very pleased by the judge’s decision while Phyllis Frey from Citizens Against the Train (CATT) fired back with, “We will appeal.”
Opponents of AAF point toward the FDFC, insisting it is not even a “legally” constituted board.
Frey noted that the majority of the FDFC board was not appointed by Enterprise Florida as required.
“This board was not appointed by Gov. Scott as required, were not bankers as required, and were not approved by the Senate as required. Therefore they were not a legally constituted board and not authorized to approve the Private-Activity Bonds,” Frey told Sunshine State News.
But proponents of the rail expansion say the court's ruling in the lawsuits brought by Martin County and Indian River County exposes the weakness in the strategy being pursued by those opposing this project.
One of those leading proponents of AAF is Jim Kovalsky, the president of the Florida East Coast Railway Society. He says that groups like CATT do nothing but promote “hysteria.”
“In the public’s eyes, there are overwhelming benefits when it comes to All Aboard Florida and the vocal minority (CATT) spouts out myths, not fact,” Kovalsky told Sunshine State News.
“How much money of the taxpayers' money was spent by the two counties to make their weak arguments?” he asked.
AAF has stated that county governments would be wiser in using their resources to engage with AAF so the Treasure Coast can optimize benefits that could come to the region, such as quiet zones.
“But the issues dealing with the train, noise and safety concerns aren’t over yet,” says Frey.
Opponents of AAF, including CATT, say that litigation and legal efforts remain active and will continue for the upcoming months.
Ed Dean, a senior editor with SSN whose talk-show can be heard on radio stations across Florida, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @eddeanradio.