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Soccer Star’s Proposed Stadium in Florida is Banking on Rail Line

29 Jun, 2016

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

There’s no stopping this train. Or at least, there’s no stopping the optimism of one of its backers.

An initiative known as All Abroad Florida, the new high-speed passenger rail line linking South Florida and Orlando, is already under construction, according to an article in the Miami Herald. And it’s probably no surprise that one of the people who is fully behind it is soccer luminary David Beckham – who as a Brit, has seen rail transit that works, albeit in his native country.

Soccer America Daily reports that Beckham has been seeking for more than two years to get a stadium project off the ground, and is talking with a group involved in the high-speed railway project about joining forces on the deal it has in the works in Miami’s nearby Overtown neighborhood.

Edens, a part-owner of the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks, is the co-chairman of Fortress Investment Group, which wants to build the first privately funded U.S. high-speed railway from Miami to Orlando railway. The Brightline's Miami Central depot would be six blocks from the proposed Beckham stadium.

“Miami Beckham United has attracted significant investor interest following the purchase of two pieces of land in Miami’s Overtown neighborhood,” Miami Beckham United said in a statement. “The list of possible investors includes principals of Fortress Investment Group, the company behind All Aboard Florida rail project and the Miami Central mixed-use development in downtown, just blocks from our stadium site.”

Miami Beckham United purchased six acres of land in Overtown but needs to buy another three-acre plot of land from Miami-Dade County.

The All Aboard Florida plan, meanwhile, is far more extensive than just a sports stop – although that certainly seems to be a means of economic impact.

According to the Herald article, All Aboard Florida plans to run 16 round-trip trains a day between Miami and Orlando, with stops in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, covering the 235-mile route in about three hours. It is expected to start running trains in 2017.

Construction has already begun on stations in the three South Florida cities, as well as the railroad tracks between them. But the full operation still faces some regulatory and financing hurdles, including a final federal environmental impact study and approval of a $1.75 billion bond issue – opposed by some of the counties the line would pass through.

The private activity bonds would not be government-backed, so taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook if All Aboard Florida failed. But because they’re tax-exempt, they must be approved by the Florida Development Finance Corp.

Indian River and Martin counties — through which All Aboard Florida would travel, though it wouldn’t have stations there — have filed lawsuits in federal court to block the bond issue.

All Aboard Florida officials say they expect the bond issue and an environmental impact study to be resolved by the end of June.

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