County files new lawsuit against Virgin Trains USA

Indian River County has filed a lawsuit to try and block Brightline Trains LCC and Florida Coast Railway, LLC, from trying to make the county pay for more than $10 million for railway crossing upgrades it needs to run a high-speed passenger train through Vero Beach.

The county filed the complaint on Wednesday in the Circuit Court of the Nineteenth Judicial Circuit.

Through public statements made by both Brightline and Florida East Coast Railway, it has become clear that these two companies expect for the taxpayers of Indian River County to pay for the installation and maintenance of Brightline’s highway-railroad crossing safety improvements forever – this is unacceptable,” said Dylan Reingold, the county’s attorney.

“That is why Indian River County has refused to sign amendments to the existing agreements with Florida East Coast Railway to allow Brightline be a third-party beneficiary to Indian River County’s existing agreements.  And that is why Indian River County is filing this suit today.  If Brightline is truly a private company it needs to stop seeking federal, state and local subsidies for a project that has lost $87 million in its first three quarters of operations.”   

Officials for Brightline and Florida Coast Railways could not be reached for comment.

The county’s lawsuit argues that Virgin Trains USA, previously known as Brightline, should pay for railway crossing upgrades and ongoing maintenance that officials estimate would cost at least $10 million over the next 14 years.

The county is basing its argument on two key issues:

The county has an existing crossings agreement with Florida East Coast Railway Company that makes the county responsible for paying for the maintenance upkeep for the railroad crossings in the unincorporated areas of Indian River County, Reingold said. In 2013, Brightline asked the county to sign an agreement that would make Brightline “an intended third-party beneficiary of the same agreement, which the board never agreed to do.

In 2015, Brightline stated in their Final Environment Impact Statement that the company would pay for the grade crossing safety improvements, Reingold said.

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