State lawmaker expresses “deep concerns” to Gov. Scott over safety of passenger rail service

by | Dec 28, 2017

A Central Florida legislator is expressing her concern to Gov. Rick Scott over the safety of rail service in Florida in the wake of last week’s deadly train crash in Washington state.

In a letter sent to Scott following last week’s crash, Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, told the governor she has “deep concerns about the future of rail safety in the State of Florida” as she learns more about the Washington accident. She encouraged Scott to use the limited authority relating to highway-rail crossings already given to the Florida Department of Transportation to help ensure the safety of All Aboard Florida’s Brightline system..

Three people were killed and dozens injured when the Amtrak train derailed near Seattle last Monday. Investigators say the train was traveling at a speed of 80 mph as it entered a curve posted at 30 mph.

In her letter, Mayfield said she “cannot help but notice the similarities between the Amtrak Cascades passenger rail service and the All Aboard Florida’s Brightline passenger rail service.”

She said the two services use the same type of locomotive, have similar speeds, use tracks that are intended to support both passenger and freight service, and incorporate similar paths that include curves and highway crossings.

Mayfield added both services were met with opposition from local communities along the train routes that expressed concern over safety issues.

“I strongly believe we must learn from the Amtrak Cascade tragedy to ensure a similar accident does not occur in the State of Florida,” Mayfield wrote.

Mayfield is a proponent of legislation that would make Florida’s Brightline private rail service, a higher-speed-rail passenger train, meet both state and federal safety requirements.

It was revealed in October that a Brightline train in South Florida derailed while traveling at a speed of 4 mph, causing nearly half a million dollars in damages. The derailment had occurred nine months earlier but was not made public until October.

“The disconnect between the derailment and AAF [Brightline’s] failure to make it public is disturbing,” said Dylan Reingold, Indian River County Attorney. “The safety and well- being of our communities require greater transparency.”

In her letter, Mayfield wrote the governor that while she remains committed to her legislation, she believes the Florida DOT should use its immediate authority to review some of the safety concerns relating to the Brightline system pertaining to public railroad-highway grade crossings to reduce potential hazards.

“I recognize that the current practice in place allows the Federal Rail Agency to regulate and have oversight of rail safety, but after [last] Monday’s tragedy in Washington State, it is clear that we must take the responsibility and take charge to protect Florida from the same type of tragedy,” Mayfield wrote.



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