Mast Questions Federal Rail Officials on Brightline at Rail Safety Hearing; Mast Requests Follow-Up Hearing on Brightline’s Deceptive Business Practices
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Congressman Brian Mast (FL-18) today questioned federal rail officials on Brightline rail safety at a House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee hearing. The hearing comes a day after Rep. Mast hosted a conference call with constituents on efforts to prevent Brightline expansion on the Treasure Coast, during which Brightline trains were involved in another crash.
Rep. Mast also today sent a letter to Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommitee on Government Operations Chairman Mark Meadows requesting a hearing to investigate the allocation of Private Activity Bonds to Brightline and their deceptive practice of obtaining the bonds by claiming to be a highway. Rep. Mast has been a longtime opponent of Brightline expansion on the Treasure Coast, citing safety, environmental and economic concerns.
Watch the exchange in the hearing here:
Read the letter to Chairman Meadows here:
February 15, 2018
Chairman Mark Meadows
Subcommittee on Government Operations
Committee of Oversight and Government Reform
2157 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Dear Chairman Meadows:
Despite their dishonest claims to the contrary, Brightline has repeatedly pursued public, taxpayer-funded financing. Brightline is a passenger rail system that currently runs in Florida from Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach. The company is planning to expand from Miami to Orlando. Now, Brightline is continuing their deceptive business practices, seeking public financing for this expansion by claiming that their passenger rail train is actually a “highway” because they fail to qualify for public financing under the statutory definition of high-speed rail.
Given our shared interest in rooting out waste, fraud and abuse in the federal government, I request a hearing in the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations to investigate the allocation of Private Activity Bonds to Brightline.
By way of background, in 2005 Congress created a $15 billion pool of Private Activity Bonds (22 U.S.C 142(m)) for infrastructure projects. On December 20, 2017 the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) allocated $1.15 billion to Brightline’s passenger rail project under the guise that it is a “highway” under 142(m). This interpretation is fraudulent, indicative of Brightline’s ongoing efforts to mislead the public and a perfect example of the kind of abuse that we were sent to Congress to eliminate. By any collective understanding of the definition, Brightline is a passenger rail train.
I am requesting that your subcommittee investigate this issue to determine if this allocation of taxpayer money violated federal law and the intent of Congress when enacting this legislation.
Brian J. Mast
Member of Congress
At Rep. Mast’s request, the United States Coast Guard is also conducting a survey to collect information about waterway usage near the St. Lucie and Loxahatchee River Railroad Bridges. The survey is analyzing the potential impact that expanded rail traffic, including as a result of Brightline, would have on Treasure Coast boat traffic and could impact the extent to which Brightline is permitted to expand on the Treasure Coast. You can find the survey at www.mast.house.gov/trainstudy. The deadline to complete the survey is this Friday, February 16, 2018.