Martin County, Bright­line reach truce

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Local - By Wayne K. Rous­tan

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

in Flor­ida.

“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 COM­MIS­SION/COUR­TESY

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.

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