High-Speed Rail Fatalities Highlight Need for State Safety Measures

Posted on January 23, 2018

For Immediate Release

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Contact: Amelia Johnson Smith / 850-487-5017

Edward Barenborg / 850-717-5054


High-Speed Rail Fatalities Highlight Need for State Safety Measures

~Sen. Mayfield and Rep. Grall push for high-speed passenger rail measures

SB 572 and HB 525~


Tallahassee, FL— The State of Florida currently has no law or regulation governing high-speed rail safety and recent Brightline fatalities have federal, state and local officials extremely concerned. In just the first five days of its high-speed rail service in the state, we have already seen two tragic fatalities, one of those during its inaugural run. This brings the number of fatalities associated with high-speed rail to four since July 2017.

Senator Debbie Mayfield, (R-Melbourne) and Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) held a news conference at the Capitol calling on their colleagues in the House and Senate to address the need for high-speed rail safety measures. The lawmakers observed a moment of silence for the victims and their families.

“These deaths are tragic and unacceptable which is why I have been pushing for high-speed passenger rail safety measures for the past two sessions,” said Sen. Debbie Mayfield, (R-Melbourne). “Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, I have been met with resistance every step of the way. I believe we must do everything possible to ensure public safety and to minimize the risk of further tragedy.”

Sen. Mayfield has filed SB 572 that will create the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act that 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. Additionally, this act will prevent

high-speed passenger rail companies from shifting upgrade and maintenance costs to the taxpayers.

Later this afternoon the Senate Committee on Community Affairs is holding a workshop to discuss SB 572.

Residents in the affected regions have long expressed their growing fears over the additional 32 passenger trains per day and additional freight trains that will be speeding through a rail corridor where there are approximately 350 at grade crossings. County governments have also expressed concerns over the cost of safety upgrades which they will have to absorb despite the high-speed rail project being touted as privately funded.

“Local governments should not have to absorb the costs of a privately funded project,” said Rep. Erin Grall, (R-Vero Beach). “My bill will hold Brightline and other rail companies responsible for the cost of necessary safety upgrades rather than shifting them to the taxpayers.”

Rep. Grall and co-sponsor Rep. MaryLynn Magar have filed HB 525 which 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.

Joining Sen. Mayfield and Rep. Grall were Kate Pingolt Cotner, Assistant County Attorney for Indian River, Chief Dan Wouters, Fire Rescue, Division Chief of Martin County Emergency Management, and Brent Hanlon with Citizens Against Rail Expansion in FL who echoed concerns on behalf of the Treasure Coast Region.

For more information please visit www.flsenate.gov and www.myfloridahouse.gov.