Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Indialantic, and Rep. Tyler Sirois, R-Merritt Island, filed Monday the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act, SB 676 and HB 465, designed to promote and enhance the safe operation of high-speed passenger rail systems in Florida.
In a press statement Mayfield explained the legislation incorporates recommendations identified in a study commissioned by the Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability (OPPAGA), published Oct. 31, 2018. The study, titled the Florida Passenger Rail System Study, examined all existing and planned passenger rail systems in the state of Florida and identified key safety deficiencies within Florida’s passenger rail system.
Mayfield didn't expressly mention the some two dozen deaths from the Brightline/Virgin high-speed train on Florida East Coast Railway tracks since July 2017, but the deaths and plans for that passenger line to serve a Miami-Orlando route are what first focused her attention on rail safety.
“Florida has a fatality rate 3.5 times the national average,” Mayfield said. “This is unacceptable and must be addressed if we are going to continue to encourage additional high-speed passenger trains.”
This legislation is the foundation for implementing necessary actions by the Florida Department of Transportation based on the study’s recommendations to improve passenger rail operations and safety in Florida. It requires the state to exert its authority over the Federal Railroad Administration where necessary, to make certain rail corridors and railway operating equipment are safe and well-maintained, pedestrian and road crossings are gated, high-risk corridors are fenced, and local emergency-service providers are properly trained for increased risks resulting from high speed train accidents.
“Public safety is a core function of government. The tracks run close to schools, neighborhoods, businesses, and historic downtowns. While I support high speed rail, my constituents want it to be safe for commuters and pedestrians who travel along the U.S. 1 corridor on a daily basis. I am proud to join with Sen. Mayfield on this important legislation,” said Sirois.
“As we begin to explore various options for transportation throughout our state, our priority should be to ensure the safety of not only the passengers, but also of the citizens of the communities that will be impacted by these trains as they travel through our neighborhoods,” Mayfield said.