9 Investigates: Orlando to Miami train

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ORLANDO, Fla. - It has been billed for months as a private venture and an example of what private business and private investments can do, but the reality of All Aboard Florida’s finances are a bit more complex than some elected leaders would have you believe, and while private dollars are the driving force behind the Orlando to Miami train, taxpayers will find it's not a free enterprise.

All Aboard Florida is currently seeking $1.6 billion in federal loans.  The loans would be repaid to the federal government, however, the money is backed by taxpayers who would take the loss if the loans are not repaid.

Orlando International Airport will receive $213 million in state tax dollars to help build a new Intermodal Hub that will ultimately connect with All Aboard Florida.  The hub, which has been in the works for years, will, according to those involved in its planning and constriction, continue regardless of All Aboard Florida.

“This is a private venture,” said Gov. Rick Scott in a recent trip to Brevard County.

Scott has been one of the largest proponents for the train.  However, he also issued a letter to All Aboard Florida asking its leaders to reach out to the communities along its planned route down the Florida Atlantic Coast.

“My concern is that All Aboard sits down, takes time to talk to people and addresses their concerns,” said the governor.

Since the governor’s letter, Brevard County said its county attorney has begun to have conversations with attorneys for the train.  Brevard will be home to more than 50 miles of train tracks but no stops.

“The people who are in favor of All Aboard Florida will say there is no tax dollars involved. Well, there is on the local level,” said Brevard County Commissioner Andy Anderson.

Communities along the rail route are concerned about obligations that they will absorb costs for track maintenance, quiet zones and crossings.

“There is still going to be costs to residents of Brevard County,” said Anderson.  “For us, the cost is probably a half-million dollars a year to maintain those crossings.”

On Aug. 14, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Florida, sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office asking it to review All Aboard Florida’s financial viability. 

On his letter to the GAO, Murphy wrote, "Although initially sold as a private project AAF is actually seeking more than an billion dollars in taxpayer-backed loans from the federal Railroad Administration.  Before the FRA risks public money on this project, it is imperative that AAF’s relevant financial viability be thoroughly reviewed.”

In a July statement to 9 Investigates, All Aboard Florida said it was still on schedule for the Orlando connection.

“Construction on Phase 2, which will connect central Florida with the major South Florida markets, will commence immediately following the completion of the Environmental Impact Statement. This phase will deliver passenger service to Orlando by early 2017 and will coincide directly with the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s plans to build the Intermodal Station and Automated People Mover” said president and chief development officer for All Aboard Florida Michael Reininger.

In a statement to 9 Investigates, All Aboard Florida said it was still on schedule for the Orlando connection and it is continuing to work with the communities along its route with Reininger  writing, “All Aboard Florida continues to work collaboratively with organizations along the corridor and is aware of the concerns raised regarding safety and crossings"

"The investment in safety improvements made by All Aboard Florida will produce the added benefit of drastically reducing the improvements that would otherwise be associate with the introduction of quiet zones, and therefore the majority of the costs of quiet zones will be contributed by All Aboard Florida in the areas north of West Palm Beach.”