Virgin Wins Appeals Court Ruling on Use of Bonds

Virgin Trains USA may use private activity bonds to finance a extension of its route to Orlando, Florida, a federal appeals court has ruled.

The decision was issued in late December by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which ruled the U.S. Department of Transportation properly determined that Virgin’s project qualified for private activity bond.

The decision rejected a challenge by Indian River County, Florida. The court ruled that although the county had standing in the case, all of its arguments were without merit.

Among the arguments the court rejected was that bonds can’t be used because they are financing more than highway grade crossing renovations.

The court also turned down Indian River’s contention that the environmental impact statement should have looked more closely at such negative effects as trespassing and noise pollution.

The court noted that Virgin plans to put up fences where trespassing has been shown to have occurred and will place pole-mounted horns at 117 highway crossings between West Palm Beach and Cocoa. That includes 23 grade crossing in Indian River County.

Indian County Administrator Jason Brown said the county may appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court “but we have to evaluate all of our options.”

Virgin plans to upgrade 20 miles of a Florida East Coast Railway line in Vero Beach, including building a second track and upgrading highway grade crossing protections for 110 mph train speeds.

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