Martin County, Brightline reach truce
Another obstacle has been overcome in Brightline’s pursuit of expanding higher-speed passenger rail service between West Palm Beach and Orlando, but the track is far from clear.
Martin County commissioners held a special session in Stuart on Saturday and voted to approve a settlement with Brightline, ending years of court battles that cost the county an estimated $4 million, said commission Chairman Edward Ciampi.
“I’m torn because I represent the entire county, and fiscally, what are we going to do?” he asked, during the meeting. “Are we going to put in another million… to continue fighting?”
Co-plaintiff Indian River County rejected the agreement and vowed to fight on, approving the spending of another $1 million in a legal challenge for which that county has already invested nearly $3 million.
Among other things, the settlement calls for safety enhancements along the tracks, Quiet Zones, help with paying rail-related maintenance costs, increased boating navigation under rail bridges, and splitting the cost of building at least one train station on the Treasure Coast.
Lawyers for both counties
were scheduled to meet and argue their case before a federal judge in Washington D.C. Monday or Tuesday, but that was before Martin County’s settlement which also has the blessing of long-time opponent Citizens Against Rail Expansion
“CARE FL acknowledges the tireless efforts of Indian River County and wishes them well,” said spokesman Brent Hanlon, in a statement. “CARE FL has chosen to join Martin County and accept the agreement.”
Brightine officials announced, Nov. 16, a partnership with billionaire Richard
Branson that would see Brightline re-branded as Virgin Trains USA, but the Martin County lawsuit settlement would remain in effect no matter what the higher-speed rail passenger service calls itself.
Martin County Commissioners hold a special Saturday session and vote to approve a settlement with Brightline that ends four years of expensive court battles over the higher-speed passenger train's expansion plans.