Supreme Court Declines To Hear Case Challenging Florida's Private Train
Indian River County, Florida, has reached the end of the road in an attempt to stop Brightline, a private train that is slated to run from Miami to Orlando. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear the county's legal challenge to the train.
The county had argued, on complex grounds, that the project should not have been allowed to raise $2.1B through the sale of tax-exempt private activity bonds.
The county spent $3.8M in taxpayer funds since 2014 fighting the train, TCPalm reports. Officials knew it was a long shot to get the Supreme Court to take the case — the high court only accepts about 150 of the 7,000 cases presented that it's asked to take up each year — but after losing lower court cases and appeals in Florida, local residents pooled $200K to bring it to Washington.
Had the county prevailed, it could have scuttled a major piece of funding and threatened the train's viability. In a separate lawsuit, the county is still arguing that local governments shouldn't have to pay for rail crossings and safety improvements related to the train.
The Supreme Court's decision “closes out the county’s repeated and baseless attempt to disrupt our efforts of connecting Florida by passenger rail,” Brightline spokesman Ben Porritt said.
Brightline trains haven't been operating during the coronavirus pandemic, but service is expected to resume later this year between Miami and West Palm Beach. The extension to Orlando is expected to be completed in 2022.
Meanwhile, Brightline is planning to offer an additional $3.2B of tax-exempt bonds to fund a separate, 260-mile high-speed train that would connect Las Vegas to Los Angeles.
Wes Edens, co-CEO of Fortress Investment Group, Brightline's parent company, told Forbes that groundbreaking is slated for later this year and trains could start running by 2024. The western project is expected to cost $8B.