Attorneys for Martin County filed a memo in Federal Court Tuesday asking a Judge to deny a request by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) for an extension to file their opposition to Martin County’s motion for summary judgment. This comes as All Aboard Florida (AAF a.k.a Brightline) applies for a “new” pending application for a $600 million Private Activity Bond (PAB) allocation from DOT to finance Phase I (Miami to West Palm Beach) of the high-speed passenger rail project and has requested a separate amount of $1.15 billion to fund Phase II (West Palm Beach to Orlando) of the project. The two amounts equate to nearly $1.75 billion, which DOT approved in 2014 and is the foundation of Martin County’s federal lawsuit.
Martin County has argued the authorization was unlawful because it occurred before environmental reviews of the project were completed. Just last week, Martin County filed a motion for summary judgement, requesting a Federal Judge throw out the preliminary approval of $1.75 billion in tax-exempt bonds. The filing set the stage for further proceedings to bring the case to a swift and final judgment.
AAF still needs PAB assistance to finance Phase II of the project, the route that would send high-speed trains through Martin County and other Treasure Coast communities. AAF’s intention to move forward with the new $600 million PAB application and a potential $1.15 billion PAB application to finance Phase II indicates AAF is attempting to reshuffle its financing plan to avert a judgment on the original PAB allocation which Martin County argues violated environmental laws.
In August,Martin County won a major victory in its opposition to the AAF project when U.S. District Court Judge Christopher Cooper, stated Martin and Indian River counties do have standing to proceed with the April 2015 lawsuit brought against AAF and DOT to stop violations of our nation’s environmental laws and the improper authorization of $1.75 billion in taxpayer subsidized bonds. Judge Cooper said Martin County and the plaintiffs demonstrated that without the bond allocation, the AAF Project is significantly less likely to proceed, and that the plaintiffs have adequately demonstrated that the DOT’s bond allocation violated environmental laws.