All Aboard Florida Defends Lease Questioned By Altman

By  //  July 31, 2014

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TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — All Aboard Florida President Mike Reininger is defending a right-of-way lease that has drawn questions from Sen. Thad Altman.

Thad Altman
Thad Altman

Altman this week requested Attorney General Pam Bondi look into provisions of the lease, which he says could keep the proposed Miami-to-Orlando All Aboard Florida passenger rail service from ever scheduling stops in Brevard or Indian River counties.

The lease was reached by All Aboard Florida and the predecessor of the Central Florida Expressway Authority.

Reininger, president and chief development officer of the Coral Gables-based All Aboard Florida, issued a statement late Wednesday that the provisions were “clearly laid out in the final documents.”

Reininger also said, “These provisions were designed to allow for the possibility of future expansion, while simultaneously protecting the (Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority) bond holders from economic penalties arising from any competitive use of their right away.”

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This past legislative session, lawmakers renamed the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority as the Central Florida Expressway Authority, which now oversees most toll roads in Lake, Orange, Seminole and Osceola counties.

The lease, approved in 2013 with the Orlando-Orange County Expressway Authority, includes a provision that would require All Aboard Florida to make payments if the use of the right-of-way reduces auto traffic along the Beachline expressway, which generates revenue through tolls.

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Altman contends All Aboard Florida could use the lease provision as an excuse to bypass future plans for a station in Brevard or Indian River counties.

The attorney general’s office is reviewing Altman’s request. While All Aboard Florida officials have discussed the potential for stops between West Palm Beach and Orlando after the service is up and running, there are no current plans for a stop on the Space Coast. Reininger acknowledged that in his statement.

Michael Reininger
Michael Reininger

“It has become quite clear in our meetings with community leaders there is a high degree of interest for a stop in Brevard County — we look forward to the day when we can appropriately consider all of the expansion opportunities along the corridor,” Reininger said.

The first trains of the passenger system are expected to travel between Miami and West Palm Beach in 2016. The service may be expanded to Orlando in 2017.