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The Florida Senate

Senator Mayfield, District 17 — Press Release


January 17, 2017

CONTACT: Kayla Bailey, 321.409.2025

Senator Debbie Mayfield and Representatives MaryLynn Magar, Gayle Harrell, and Erin Grall File Legislation to Create Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act

~Bills will enhance public safety at railroad crossings and alleviate financial burden put on local governments~


Tallahassee, Fla.—The State of Florida currently has no law or regulation governing high speed rail safety, which is why today Senator Debbie Mayfield (R-Melbourne) filed legislation to create the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act (Senate Bill 386). Representatives MaryLynn Magar (R-Hobe Sound), Gayle Harrell (R-Stuart) and Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) have also filed a House companion. The Senate and House bills will fill that void.


A proposed high-speed passenger rail project spearheaded by All Aboard Florida (AAF)/Brightline, in the Treasure Coast region, threatens to put at risk thousands of school children, pedestrians, first responders, and residents who would be forced to cross railroad tracks between 110?mile-per-hour trains multiple times per day. In addition to these safety concerns, Treasure Coast Counties and residents are also extremely worried about the costs that local governments will incur to not only upgrade and maintain the crossings for high speed rail, but to also install safety technology at rail crossings – a cost that should be absorbed by the private company proposing the project.


“I find it quite astounding that Florida does not have any measures in place to address high-speed rail when there is a statewide project underway that will crisscross through my community, many others between Miami and Orlando, and potentially up Florida’s entire east coast,” said Sen. Mayfield. “I can tell you that to date I have not heard one thing from AAF about what they are going to do to ensure safety features are in place to protect the public around these fast-moving trains. This legislation is really designed to protect all Floridians from accidents and injuries at these dangerous railroad crossings across the state.”


Under AAF’s current proposed plan, up to 32 passenger trains per day and additional freight trains would travel from Miami to Orlando, speeding through small towns and endangering anyone in their path. There will undoubtedly be an increased risk for something to go wrong and for accidents to happen.


“This legislation not only protects Floridians from the potential dangers of high-speed trains by ensuring the appropriate safety technology is in place, but also protects their tax dollars by ensuring the appropriate entity pays for those upgrades,” said Magar. “Local governments should not have to absorb the costs of protecting their citizens from a private project. This good bill puts a stop to so-called private railroad companies financing their business ventures on the backs of hard-working taxpayers.”


The Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act will promote and enhance the safety of high-speed passenger rail systems to protect the health, safety, and welfare of all Floridians.


Specifically, the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act provides the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) with the authority to regulate railroad companies in Florida, except for the authority preempted by federal laws or regulations.


The act establishes minimum safety standards for high-speed passenger rail, including the installation of approved safety technology that at a minimum must include Positive Train Control and Remote Health Monitoring. Before operating high-speed passenger rail, a railroad company must also install or realign crossing gates, equip all automatic public railroad-highway grade crossing warning systems with remote health monitoring technology, and construct and maintain fencing in accordance with the act.


The act also requires FDOT to identify pedestrian traffic generators, such as nearby schools and parks, and signs of current pedestrian traffic across railroad tracks, where fencing is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the surrounding community. The railroad company operating the high-speed passenger rail system must then construct and maintain the fence on both sides of its railroad tracks to prevent intrusion.


Additionally, the act stipulates that a railroad company operating high-speed passenger rail is solely responsible for all rail corridor improvements or upgrades relating to its operation and safety. Neither local governments nor the state will be responsible for any costs associated with the construction and maintenance of necessary improvements unless express consent is given in writing.


The act also outlines state reporting requirements for railroad companies regarding accidents, injuries, and fatalities. Railroad companies that transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) on the same tracks or within the same rail corridor as high-speed passenger rail must also report information annually on insurance coverage for any losses resulting from a reasonable worst-case unplanned release of LNG, as well as information to demonstrate ability to pay the costs of remediating.


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