Posts Tagged ‘Indian River Florida’

Supreme Court Declines to Take Case in Florida County’s Bid to Block Brightline Extension

October 10, 2020

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the county’s appeal of an appellate court decision that gave Brightline the approval to use tax-exempt private activity bonds to fund construction of a line to Orlando.

Local news reports said the court’s decision not to take the case was expected, but county officials made the appeal because they felt they had to exhaust every opportunity to try and block the rail expansion.

The county has spend $3.8 million in public money since 2014 fighting the line extension and local residents donated $200,000 to help finance the case.

Brightline spokesman Ben Porritt said in a statement that the high court’s decision “closes out the county’s repeated and baseless attempt to disrupt our efforts of connecting Florida by passenger rail.”

High Courts Urged to Reject Brightline Case

September 2, 2020

Brightline, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Railroad Administration have filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court not to take a case brought by Indian River County, Florida, over the use of private activity bonds to fund a Brightline expansion to Orlando.

The Florida county has fought the extension for years and lost in lower court rulings that upheld the issuance of the bonds.

AAF Holdings, which owns Brightline, has argued that it is allowed by federal law to issue the $2.1 billion in bonds.

It said use of the bonds is permitted under language in the law that allows them for use to finance “qualified highway or surface freight transfer facilities.”

U.S. DOT has argued that the bonds may be used for any project that benefits from highway funds.

In this case, the Brightline project includes grade-crossing improvements that fit that description.

Florida County to Appeal to U.S. Supreme Court

May 26, 2020

A Florida County that has long opposed the efforts of Brightline to build an extension to Orlando is making a last ditch appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Indian River County contends that Virgin Trains USA, which operates the Brightline service, should not be eligible for $2.7 billion of tax-exempt private activity bonds.

The bonds are being used to finance construction of the Orlando extension.

The Florida county argues that there is an open question about whether a federal agency can interpret the law and whether courts should defer to that interpretation.

In a legal brief, the county said the matter is “critical to the separation of powers” between agencies and the courts.

Indiana River County has been fighting and losing in the courts for years in its efforts to thwart Brightline.

It’s most recent setback was a federal appeals court ruling that Virgin can use the bonds as intended for expansion.

County officials have approved $200,000 to make one appeal to the Supreme Court.

Virgin Wins Appeals Court Ruling on Use of Bonds

January 2, 2020

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.