Publish Date: 
Friday, February 24, 2017 - 9:00am

Original article written by Alexandra Clough and Jennifer Sorentrue of myPalmBeachPost.

The Transportation & Infrastructure subcommittee listened to a group of rail experts for about an hour, discussing the Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act. This proposals would create statewide rules requiring rail operators such as All Aboard Florida and Brightline to install and pay for safety upgrades.

As of right now, freight trains on the FEC line operate at the speeds between 35 and 40 miles per hour, Brightline plans to run as many as 32 trains a day at 79, 110 and 125 mph.

Treasure Coast leaders on the panel warned state lawmakers that the fast-moving trains could create a safety problem through their communities, while also adding that local governments in the area are required to cover the cost of maintaining rail improvements.

"Because you are going to be running at 110 miles per hour, this is a risk that doesn't exist now, and this is something that everyone needs to be concerned about," said George Gavalla, a rail safety consultant for Martin and Indian River counties.

All Aboard Florida General Counsel Myles Tobin was there as well. He commented that if this bill were approved, it would delay the project and add tens of millions of dollars to its price tag. He also argued that state lawmakers don't have the legal authority to impose regulations based on the speed of a train.

Just to note, 40 to 125 mph is a substantial difference.

Martin County Fire Rescue Division Chief Daniel Wouters said crews are delayed as many as 140 times a year at rail crossings. Increasing the number of trains would only add to the days.