Brightline's use of tax-exempt bonds and expansion on the Treasure Coast was the focus of a Thursday morning hearing.
U.S. Rep. Brian Mast said that despite Brightline's claims, the project has pursued taxpayer financing.
In a letter to the Committee of Oversight and Government Reform, he argued it doesn't qualify to use public tax money because Brightline is not a true high-speed rail line.
Mast also said expansion on the Treasure Coast would create too many safety hazards, including frequent delays at waterway rail crossings.
He says even though Brightline is up and running in Palm Beach County it doesn’t convince him that it’s right for the Treasure Coast.
Mast said he is worried about safety hazards and delays on the Treasure Coast.
The division chief for Martin County Fire Rescue agreed it's a concern -- citing the volume of rescues that need to be done on either side of the tracks and the space available in those intersections to keep drivers safe.
But Brightline's CEO disagreed.
Brightline also said that the people who have died on the railroad tracks in recent months have either committed suicide or were under the influence of drugs.
- In 2005, Congress created a $15 billion pool of private activity bonds (PABs) for infrastructure projects. If the project qualifies as an exempt facility, the Department of Transportation (DOT) can exempt the PABs from federal income taxes.
- In 2017, Brightline obtained $600 million in tax-exempt PABs from DOT to complete Phase I of the project and $1.15 billion in tax-exempt PABs to complete Phase II.
- Brightline has faced criticism for six fatalities since Phase I trial runs began last year. There are also concerns about the number of highway-rail grade crossings along the Brightline route.