Virgin Trains crossing sign

Safety at train crossings continues to be the main issue of contention in the high speed train fight.

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY - The cost for Indian River County’s six-year battle to stop high speed trains has now reached $3,406,394. The vast majority of the spending has been on legal fees and legislative advocacy.

The updated figures were contained in a Sept. 23 memo from Kristin Daniels, director, Office of Management and Budget, to county commissioners.

Since Dec., 2018, Indian River County has spent $472,824 on legal expenses and legislative advocacy related to the trains.

Of that total, $10,000 went to McDermot, Will & Emery LLP for legislative advocacy, and the rest went to Bryan Cave LLP and Murphy & Walker for legal services. The single largest expenditure was $107,257 to Bryan Cave LLP for legal services in July, 2019.

The county’s total FY 18/19 expenses in this matter through Sept. were $474,673.

By comparison, the total expenses for FY 17/18 were $637,344. Total expenses for FY 16/17 were $223,471. Total expenses for FY 15/16 were $870,867. Total expenses FY 14/15 were $1,154,211. Total expenses FY 13/14 were $45,825.

All together, the county’s total train expenses processed as of Sept. 23, 2019 are $3,406,394.

The county has since 2013 budgeted $3,979,420 for the train battle, leaving a remaining balance of $573,026.

Originally called All Aboard Florida, the goal of the company was to provide high speed passenger service between Miami and Orlando, with additional stations in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. The company has since dangled the possibility of additional stations to appease counties and cities upset about the fast trains moving through their jurisdiction.

According to Indian River County, the current proposal has 32 trains passing through the county daily, with a maximum proposed speed between West Palm Beach and Cocoa Beach of 110 miles per hour.

After several business transactions, the name changed from All Aboard Florida to Brightline, and then Virgin Trains. That company claims it is the only privately owned and operated intercity passenger rail service in the United States, focused on connecting “complementary cities and congested corridors that are too close to fly and too long to drive.”

In June, Virgin Trains announced it had surpassed one million rides in Florida. According to Virgin Trains, the one million rides from Jan., 2018 to June, 2019 had the effect of eliminating 400,000 cars from the road, removing 15 million pounds of CO2 emissions from the air, and 750,000 fewer gallons of gas pumped.

Virgin Trains says that each passenger saved an average of 40 minutes by choosing rail over highway.

Virgin Trains says it still intends to expand service from the current Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach corridor to Orlando and Tampa. The company also recently announced plans for a new express service connecting Las Vegas and southern California.

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