Martin County awaits answers to numerous, critical safety questions from AAF
Posted on March 3, 2016
On November 3, 2015, Martin County sent a letter to All Aboard Florida (AAF) President Michael Reininger, in an effort to address ongoing concerns about the potential negative safety impacts of the proposed AAF passenger rail project. The letter (see glossary of terms here for clarification to technical language used in letter) seeks clarification from AAF about the safety technology it would employ, and includes detailed safety questions and concerns that are of paramount importance to ensuring the safety of residents who cross the railroad tracks every day. Specifically, the County asked for AAF's position on track and crossing safety measures, such as sealed corridor improvements, re-grading of intersections, and various pedestrian crossing improvements, as well as the inclusion of advanced technologies such as positive train control, vehicle presence detection, and remote health monitoring systems.
"We formally wrote to All Aboard Florida to request clarity on where they stand regarding a variety of safety measures that we believe should be included if their project is built," said Richard Creech, engineering consultant for the County. "It is our intent that AAF take every precaution necessary to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our citizens, and at a minimum comply with existing safety requirements" Creech added.
While AAF has informally talked to Martin County staff and lawyers about technical aspects of its plans, it has refused to verbally take a position on specific safety requirements and has not responded in writing to the County's November 3rd letter. Further, it is the County's understanding that after the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) Safety Office met with AAF officials regarding safety requirements in December 2015, the agency subsequently sent a letter to the railroad in December 2015 detailing its view of these requirements. Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests have been filed to obtain it, and U.S. Congressman Bill Posey (R-FL) sent the FRA a letter in January, also requesting a copy of the letter. To date, FRA has not provided the document.
AAF's failure to respond to Martin County's safety letter of November 3, 2015, coupled with the FRA's as yet unexplained decision not to make its December 2015 safety letter to AAF publicly available when requested, means that critical safety questions of concern to Martin County remain unanswered.
Martin County's five page letter requested clarification, not only on whether certain safety train and track features would be included in AAF's high-speed passenger rail project, but also on whether AAF was willing to pay for the costs associated with maintaining those safety improvement measures. "AAF's passenger rail project creates an unfunded mandate for Martin County taxpayers. By 2030, our estimates indicate the County will have spent upwards of $7.7 million on the maintenance of AAF-related safety improvements," said Creech. "This is a fundamentally unfair burden to place on our citizens."
Martin County will continue its work to ensure the health, safety, and welfare of the public as it relates to the AAF project. For more resources and information on the many local and regional issues of concern relating to the proposed AAF passenger rail project, including presentations, studies, letters of concern to state and federal agencies and more, visit www.martin.fl.us. In addition, please visit the County's social media platforms, Facebook and Twitter, for updates.