Building a new passenger rail system in the United States is a delicate balancing act. The public’s transit needs, the cost and financing, the impact on the environment and the repercussions for the taxpayer create a complicated puzzle of challenges that require a careful give-and-take approach to achieve an effective project that satisfies all the parties involved.
The project has Florida East Coast Railway planning a major expansion to create a new passenger service from downtown Miami to Orlando, with two stops in between — in downtown West Palm Beach and in Fort Lauderdale.
The biggest plus: All Aboard Florida is a private-sector initiative, so all decisions will be based on free-enterprise economics and top-quality business planning, without being a drain on taxpayers. The new rail line will create a significant economic impact for affected counties, in terms of jobs, construction and operations. Tax revenues to local and state governments are estimated at $200 million over six years.
Financing will include a mix of equity and debt. A chunk of the initial capital is expected to come from a federal Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement loan, which would be backed by private equity collateral. The long-term loan would be repaid over time, with interest, from revenues generated by the rail system.
The Federal Railroad Administration has already found that the most concentrated point of the rail line will have “no significant impact” on area communities, and All Aboard Florida expects the line to relieve about 3 million cars from Florida roads each year.