BRADENTON, Fla. - Indian River County, Fla., plans to file a federal lawsuit challenging the U.S. Department of Transportation's $1.75 billion private activity bond allocation for the All Aboard Florida passenger train project.
Commissioners unanimously approved spending up to $600,000 for the legal action on Tuesday, according to county attorney Dylan Reingold.
The county has hired Bryan Cave LLP as outside counsel. The firm is already working on the lawsuit, which should be filed in a couple of weeks, Reingold said.
All Aboard declined to comment "on a possible lawsuit," said spokeswoman Lynn Martenstein.
Indian River, on the state's east coast, has raised a number of concerns about the project, which would send dozens of passenger trains daily through the county without a stop as they travel between Orlando and Miami. Traffic impacts, delays for emergency vehicles, flood and archeological issues are among the concerns.
The USDOT's Federal Highway Administration awarded the bonding authority shortly before Christmas, along with a stipulation that requires the bonds to be issued by July 1.
The allocation also prohibits All Aboard Florida from using any bond proceeds until 45 days after the release of a final environmental impact statement. The draft EIS, required under the National Environmental Policy Act, is awaiting final approval.
Reingold said the government's bond allocation "short circuits" the federal approval process.
"We just feel they should complete the whole NEPA process," Reingold said. "We also think they should do a supplemental environmental impact study because their draft is so weak."
On Feb. 17, commissioners in Indian River and Martin counties approved using $4.1 million in public funds to oppose All Aboard Florida, including potentially using the funds to take legal action.
Florida Development Finance Corp., a state conduit issuer, has given preliminary approval to issue All Aboard's bonds.