SCOTUS Squashes Florida County Brightline Suit

Written by Bill Wilson, Engineering Editor; and Editor-in-Chief, Railway Track & Structures
Brightline was at risk of losing billions of dollars in private activity bonds.

Brightline was at risk of losing billions of dollars in private activity bonds.

Indian River County knew its chance to be heard in front of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) was slim, but a small group thought it was better than none.

The county was in a fight with Brightline, which could have lost access to billions of dollars in tax-exempt private activity bonds. A SCOTUS ruling in the county’s favor also could have impacted construction of Brightline’s West Palm Beach to the Orlando International Airport extension. The case was similar to one with Martin County two years ago. In that case, a settlement was reached that called for Brightline to pay for safety improvements and to build one station on the Treasure Coast.

Indian River County was ready to end its battle against Brightline after losing its case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia in December. However, a group of citizens led the second charge at the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court’s decision to deny Indian River’s petition closes out the county’s repeated and baseless attempt to disrupt our efforts of connecting Florida by passenger rail,” Brightline Senior Vice President Ben Porritt told Railway Age. “Our planned expansion to Orlando is nearly 50% complete, and people are excited about an eco-friendly, car-free option to travel. We continue to explore locations for a Brightline station on the Treasure Coast and are encouraged by the tremendous amount of support we have received in the region.”

A separate duel in a lower court continues. There, Indian River County is trying to get Brightline to pay for highway/rail grade crossings and safety improvements.

In related news, Railway Age Contributing Editor David Peter Alan reported on Brightline and Virgin Rail parting company in August.

Railway Age Executive Editor Marybeth Luczak contributed to this report.

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