I have seldom read such a poorly researched piece as Mr. Romano’s, ‘Unneeded Green New Deal higher-speed train in Florida barrels ahead.’ If the article proves anything at all, it proves that Mr. Romano is clueless with regards to the project in Florida and railroads in general.
Brightline/Virgin Trains USA is a 100% privately funded venture in the best of traditional capitalist values. It has NOTHING to do with AOC’s ridiculous ‘Green New Deal,’ Obama’s High Speed Rail or California style socialist trains. Fact is Obama gave $1.25 billion to the State of Florida to build a high speed railroad. The State of Florida under republican Governor Rick Scott wisely returned the money and told Washington; ‘No thank you.’ Meanwhile Amtrak was exploring buying access and sending a section of its New York-Miami trains between Jacksonville and Miami along this same route. Amtrak test trains ran up and down the Florida East Coast Railway, everyone was expecting a major Amtrak announcement and nobody could have predicted that the FEC RY would respond by informing the State and Amtrak that they would run the trains themselves. During this same time period with AOC barely out of diapers the Florida East Coast Railway launched a serious plan to go back into the passenger business… PRIVATELY!
All Aboard Florida/Brightline is connected to Flagler Development, owned by Fortress which is owned by Japans SoftBank Group, these companies are valued in the billions and its highly unlikely that the losses expected during the first few years will damage their bottom line. The finance is straight forward and simple, bonds issued by the government and purchased by worldwide investors will build 40 miles of new railroad as well as several hundred miles of double track, signals, equipment etc. If the project were to fail, it is the bond holders that will take the hit, not the State of Florida or its taxpayers.
Lastly, and perhaps the most misunderstood piece of the plan centers on Transit Oriented Development or TOD. In recent years around the globe major transportation infrastructure investments have been rewarded by a building boom often valued at hundreds of times greater than the initial investment in rail, bus rapid transit, streetcar etc. In this theater, the Virgin Trains USA group is building both the transportation system as well as many mixed use high rise towers. The success will be as much a novel real estate venture as it is a railroad venture.
Most of us do major grocery shopping a couple times each month, imagine doing your shopping without the use of a supermarket shopping cart. The carts don’t make money for the supermarket but most of us wouldn’t shop there if they didn’t provide this value added service. Likewise these massive new mixed use developments will be using the Virgin Trains USA as that critical value added service. This is more than a railroad, its a massive real estate project the likes of which we haven’t witnessed for a century or more.
Call it whatever you’d like, but trying to tie this conservative, capitalist investment project to AOC’s socialist Green New Deal is completely off track and wrong.
Robert W. Mann