Treasure Coast counties file new lawsuit to block Brightline bonds


Martin and Indian River counties and a Treasure Coast-based citizens group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday challenging the approval of $1.15 billion in tax-exempt bonds to help pay for Brightline’s planned expansion north to Orlando. 

The 94-page complaint filed against the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration alleges federal officials either ignored or failed to consider the impacts the company’s trains could have on the environment, public safety and maritime traffic.
Brightline began operating its passenger trains between West Palm Beach and Ft. Lauderdale last month. The company is expected to expand service to Miami in the coming weeks.

RELATED: If people die when Brightline sounds horn, what happens with no horn?

Eventually, Brightline plans to operate 32 trains a day between Miami and Orlando. The trains are expected to reach speeds of 110 mph between West Palm Beach and Cocoa and 125 mph between Cocoa and Orlando.

This marks the second time the two Treasure Coast counties have filed suit to block the project. 

In a separate lawsuit filed in 2015, the counties argued that federal officials violated the National Environmental Policy Act when they approved the sale of $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds before an environmental study of the rail project's second phase between West Palm Beach and Orlando was complete. 
A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit in 2017 after the U.S. Department of Transportation withdrew its original 2014 approval granting Brightline permission to use the bonds. 
Before the dismissal, Brightline filed an application with the transportation department requesting permission to move forward with the smaller, $600 million bond sale. 
At the time, the company said it planned to consider a second, $1.15 billion bond sale to help pay for rail work between West Palm Beach and Orlando.

RELATED: Boynton Police release video of Brightline train hitting cyclist

Federal officials completed the environmental study of the project's second leg late last year.

Brightline won approval to sell $1.15 billion in bonds in December.


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