U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is questioning whether All Aboard Florida should have received $1.75 billion in federally authorized, tax-exempt private activity bonds to build the first two phases of its Brightline rail system.
In a letter written Tuesday to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the Florida Republican points out that the bonds were created under a law intended for highway projects and passenger trains traveling faster than 150 miles per hour.
Brightline trains currently operate at a maximum speed of 79 miles per hour between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, and are expected to go no faster than 125 miles per hour on future segments to Orlando.
“It is not clear that Brightline’s proposal should have qualified for these funds,” he wrote.
He wanted to know three things:
- “Is DOT’s interpretation that any surface transportation project that utilizes Title 23 funds, no matter the dollar amount, would qualify for funding through private activity bonds?”
- Is there precedent for rail projects that did not meet the 150 mph threshold receiving funding?
- Has DOT previously denied rail projects based on the 150 mph threshold not being met?
Rubio joins Rep. Brian Mast, R-Palm City, among Florida legislators who have questioned aspects of the project.