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Politics

Proposed All Aboard Florida Regulations: Driven by Safety Concerns or Politics?

March 20, 2017 - 1:00pm

Since 2014, the team behind All Aboard Florida (AAF) and Brightline has known that expanding rail in the Space Coast and the Treasure Coast would not be an easy sell. Over the past year, All Aboard Florida officials have expressed optimism after winning court battles and obtaining permits to move forward.

But that mood might be changing. State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, an opponent of the rail project, has introduced “The Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act.”

Mayfield’s proposal would make high-speed rail companies pay for the installation of safety measures, including fencing along certain areas of the track that could be dangerous for pedestrians. Mayfield’s bill also makes train companies develop safety measures focused on train engineers and gate malfunctions. The bill is gaining traction in Tallahassee as it cleared the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously. 

Weighing in on the safety issue, Citizens Against Rail Expansion (CARE) Chairman Brent Hanlon says Mayfield’s bill will ensure people will be safer at high speed rail crossings across the state. 

“This legislation will address public safety concerns in any community across the state,” Hanlon insisted. 

But some question the merit of this legislation.

“Is this bill really about safety or is it about politics?” Cocoa Mayor Henry Parrish asked. Parrish, who supports AAF, added, “enough is enough.”

“Stop playing politics with this train,” Parrish told Sunshine State News. “The people in my city and the Brevard County Commission have already decided on this issue. They want it and the many jobs that will come with it.”

For its part, AAF also believes this legislation is politically motivated, insisting Mayfield’s bill wants to impose “new” state regulations on the rail project in addition to current “existing” federal regulations.

“While the bill's sponsors would have you believe this is merely a safety measure, its intent is clear,” AAF noted in an email to SSN. “On behalf of rail opponents who have been unsuccessful in federal and state courts, it is a thinly-veiled attempt to stop a private passenger rail project from using its private property.”

Mayfield’s office responded, insisting that the proposal “sets up the framework for high-speed rail safety in Florida” and is not targeting a certain company. 

But Rusty Roberts, vice president of government affairs for All Aboard Florida, disagrees.

“The senator from Indian River and Brevard counties insisted that her bill was about statewide regulation of high speed rail, not about one company,” Roberts said. “But in explaining her bill, she repeatedly referenced All Aboard Florida as the subject of her regulatory scheme, then catching herself to include any other high speed rail system.  Of course, no other high speed rail systems currently operate or are contemplated in Florida.” 


Reach Ed Dean, senior editor at Sunshine State News, at EdDean29@yahoo.com


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Comments

I always said all that lawyer money could have better been spent demanding a train station on the Treasure Coast....Now we get the high speed rail, with no trains station....Freaking idiots.

NIMBYs need to move west. Fl needs this system more then we need seasonal NIMBYs! Just wait until AAF and FEC sue Martin and Indian River counties for delays, loss of revenue, increased costs, and attorney fees. Then you will see taxpayer funded waste!

MAKE NO MISTAKE TAXPAYERS,...."All Aboard Florida" is a "MONEY PIT" that YOU will live with FOREVER, even if you NEVER see or hear "the train go by"... THIS is, without doubt, a POLITICAL "Stalking-Horse" designed to "mask & conceal" LOBBYS & SPECIAL-INTERESTS: Pandering-Politicians should be ashamed of themselves!!!!!!!!!!!

It is privately funded! The only wasted tax payer money is useless lawsuits. Maybe it will be better if FEC closes the crossings which they ALLOW you to use!

someone is getting paid under the table

The "CARE" people are idiotic NIMBY's. Rail is the future for countless reasons, one of which is safety. Cars are more dangerous to drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

maybe THIS guy is under there

One reason NOT to develope passenger rail is that it is more detrimental to the environment than cars. Freight rail is less detrimental than trucks, but passenger rail burns more energy and creates more CO2 than cars considering the weight of the trains vs the weight and fuel efficiency of cars. BTW, many of the CARE supporters don't live anywhere near the tracks and are not NIMBYs.

From the beginning, it has been clear that the past administration and DOT staff have favored AAF/FEC over the people of the Treasure Coast. One decision after another, including not taking the final step to make the Environmental Impact Study complete with a Record of Decision filed by the DOT, has made it clear whose side they are on. If the average person reads the bill, they agree it makes total sense regardless of where you live in Florida - and to be sure, the people on the FEC line to JAX and along the projected route to Tampa should be checking this out. To require the developer of this NEW rail system to cover ALL of the costs including maintenance of the 'recommended' safety equipment being installed specifically for 110 mph trains, makes total sense if it's really a private operation. Allowing counties the home rule to regulate the speed of trains through their communities makes total sense. And to require a company carrying hazardous materials on the same tracks as HSR passengers have the necessary liability insurance and financial resources to 'clean up' a catastrophic breach of the material (check out Washington state's regulation) also makes total sense. Throw in systems like Positive Train Control and Health Monitoring Systems (the biggest problem with crossings across the country is the speed at which companies are alerted to AND repair faulty safety equipment), and even the FRA top engineer would agree - this legislation makes sense. Sorry, but if AAF wants to operate express trains through the Treasure Coast - they need to do everything possible to make them safe...if it is possible to cross 340 streets at grade and be safe. Politics? No, just common sense.

Why should the railroad pay for the expense of crossings? It isn't their private property crossing your roads. It's your roads crossing their private property. The railroad can easily close any crossing it chooses but they don't do that. It's a simple agreement, if you want your road to cross our private property, then you need to pay for the crossing devices used at the crossing or don't have a crossing or build a bridge.

The agreements were written tens of years ago, many after the early 60's when it was only one track with a modicum of freight. Double track specifically for 110+ mph passenger trains is an entirely new system that requires massive upgrades to the equipment and a doubling of the maintenance fees in perpetuity. This is a game changer and the company changing the game needs to cover the costs - not the tax payers. We begin to see that the cost cutting measures attempted by AAF/FEC to double freight capacity by using 20th century infrastructure rather than building west of the coast, is not so cheap after all. If they need to borrow billions to develop the new system - add one billion more and do it right - either cover your costs to save lives or move them west and save lives.

Doesnt matter. You are crossing private property. Why would they move west when the ports are on the coast and the depots snd companies that rely on freight. What stupidity.

ALL whiners need to face it, AAFR is here, going to stay here and will eventually begin running, much to the delight of many, many, East coast Floridians! LM Ramirez speaks with forked tongue. The individual rail lines maintain, and are responsible for the tracks they ride upon. MAYBE, the FRA oversees their operations, however, it's the lines who are responsible. If the track is used by multiple lines, then multiple lines pay for repairs and maintenance of said rails.

YOU WILL BE VERY, VERY SORRY;....Just look at AMTRAC's very POOR record of safety and economic stability for the duration of their ENTIRE existence ! DON'T FALL FOR THIS "ALL ABOARD FLORIDA" SCAM ! TAXPAYERS BEWARE !!!!

HSTs shouldn't be using wheels or run at ground level but on air and well above things that might be hit. The noise, cost, life disruption of so many trains, intersections at ground level means many people will die and others life interrupted.------------------ Home values will drop and will divide towns, people because AAF won't do it right......... And letting this old tech bad one though when stopping the true HST from Tampa, Orlando and north can only be corporate welfare, bribery.

"jerry",.. ONLY YOU can consistently "run on air" (but ALWAYS the "hot kind") ! [BUT, I like your "direction" in THIS instance..]

There is no question that this proposed bill is targeting ONE company, in fact the only company with an active fast rail project in the state. The US Federal Railroad Administration is responsible for all regulations along the Nation's railways. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The FRA formulates and enforces rail safety regulations. For the most part, all railroad operational procedures are subject to FRA regulations, including highway-railroad crossing signals, train speeds, train horn use, track condition, etc. This proposed bill should be viewed as frivolous and a waste of the legislature's time.

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