U.S. Rep. Brian Mast questioned former All Aboard Florida head Michael Reininger during a federal subcommittee hearing Thursday to discuss the “challenges and opportunities” facing intercity passenger rail projects.
In a five-minute exchange that Mast posted on his YouTube channel, the Republican lawmaker from Palm City raised questions about the financing of All Aboard’s Brightline project and the safety of aging railroad bridges in his district.
“Is All Aboard Florida or Brightline, whatever we want to call it, is that publicly funded or will it be publicly funded?” Mast asked Reininger, who served as All Aboard’s president for more than four years before leaving the post in March to take over as executive director at Florida East Coast Industries, Brightline’s parent company.
All Aboard has maintained the project will not be publicly funded — a statement that Reininger repeated on Thursday.
“It is completely an investment of private sector capital,” Reininger told Mast on Thursday.
All Aboard has proposed using tax-exempt private activity bonds to help fund a portion of the project, which will carry passengers between Miami and Orlando with stops in Ft. Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.
“Private activity bonds are 100 percent capital,” Reininger said. “It comes from the private sector. It doesn’t have any involvement from any funds that are distributed from the federal government.”
Mast also raised concerns about aging railroad bridges in his district, asking whether those spans will be replaced as part of the rail project.
Reininger said the company plans to make “a significant investment in the complete reconstruction and re-manufacture of the major component parts of those existing bridges.”
Brightline is expected to begin service later this summer. A grand opening is expected to be held in the fall.
Once operational, Brightline’s trains will shuttle passengers between West Palm Beach and Miami in about an hour. Ticket prices have not been announced.
Eventually, Brightline plans to expand service north to Orlando.
Construction on the West Palm Beach-to-Orlando leg has not yet begun. Brightline officials have said the project will take at least two years from the time work starts.