Brightline could face nearly $350M safety improvement tab

Brightline All Aboard Florida

Brightline, the high-speed passenger train now running between Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach, could have to spend about $349 million on safety improvements.

That’s after lawmakers and others, upset over the railway’s dangers, leveraged recent train-related deaths to push for more safety measures. 

Republicans Sen. Debbie Mayfield of Melbourne and Rep. Erin Grall of Vero Beach held a press conference Tuesday to express sympathy for those who died and to further stress the need for Brightline to comply with federal train regulations at the expense of the company—and not taxpayers.

The train has been involved in four fatal accidents in which pedestrians or bicyclists were killed. Three accidents occurred during Brightline’s promotional runs, one of which was ruled a suicide.

The fourth, involving a pedestrian who attempted to cross the tracks, occurred last Wednesday in Boynton Beach.

Mayfield and Grall are sponsoring bills in their chambers (SB 572 and HB 525) that would, among other things, require Brightline to install “sealed corridors” at each crossing.

Lawmakers and Martin County engineer Terry Rauth agreed on Tuesday each crossing would run close to $1 million and there were 349 crossings in the region, resulting in the $349 million estimate.

It’s unknown whether each crossing will need to receive the updates, but those at the conference Tuesday seemed comfortable throwing around the nine-figure estimate.

Rauth also discussed the need for Brightline to install vehicle detection technology that would slow a train down if there was a large object — such as a vehicle, boat or trailer — along the train’s route. She said trains like Brightline weigh less than freight trains and could be derailed by such objects.

The legislation would not require Brightline trains to slow down in towns, Mayfield said. She told Florida Politics that she did not know precisely what speed the trains travel through populated areas, but that it’s typically twice as fast as the freight trains that travel between 30-40 mph.

That alone, Mayfield said, is cause for concern because citizens and tourists that populate the area may be unaware of the train’s speed.

“There’s a huge difference,” Mayfield said. “The passenger rail is going twice the speed that the freight train is going — the timing for that will be different.”

Mayfield said that problem should be addressed by Brightline separately through public awareness initiatives. She acknowledged Brightline already is working to alert the public about the dangers of high-speed rail.

“I do believe that (Brightline is) wanting to do the right thing,” Mayfield said. “They’re no more happy about this than we are.”

The Palm Beach Post reported on some of Brightline’s public awareness initiatives. Among them: safety signs warning “more and faster trains.”

SB 572 will be workshopped Tuesday afternoon in Senate Community Affairs.

Danny McAuliffe

Danny McAuliffe is a Tallahassee correspondent for Florida Politics. He is a graduate of Florida State University, where he served as the editor of the FSView & Florida Flambeau. He is a lifelong Floridian and indulges in swimming, hiking, running and memes when the news cycle permits. Reach him at [email protected]


2 comments

  • Joe O'Gorman

    January 26, 2018 at 11:51 pm

    thank you for your concern for the public absolutely true they started the rail service without posting any signs about high speed trains I don’t believe most people even know they’re out there until they see them speeding by 80 miles an hour to heavily populated cities on the east coast is totally absurd somebody has to slow them down and absolutely soon as possible more deaths are inevitable freight trains travel about the speed of Motor Vehicles train should do the same in heavily populated areas it’s time for the city to speak up and tell him to slow it down to me it’s totally responsibility I can’t believe the railroad could be that irresponsible stop it now before anybody else dies

  • Ethan L.

    February 2, 2018 at 2:05 am

    It really bothers me to see politicians whose goal is to derail high speed passenger rail service in Florida using these tragic accidents as leverage to further their goal. While it is tragic when a person is hit by a train, it almost always is preventable, and the fault of the person hit, not of the train. The crossing signals do an excellent job of notifying people when a train is coming and when they should stop and wait. The system has been designed to provide a constant warning time of approximately 45 seconds before a train arrives, whether it is a Brightline train or a freight train. The only thing needed is for people to realize that when they disregard the crossing signals, they are putting their own and other people’s lives in danger.

Comments are closed.


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