Publish Date: 
Tuesday, April 14, 2015 - 4:15pm

Letter from Phyllis Frey, former airline captain and FAA Safety Check Airman

I want to focus on what is to me, the greatest threat of all from All Aboard Florida to our community, and that is safety.

Florida is about to explode, fueled by a freight frenzy that has rail companies racing to handle the post-Panamax super-sized cargo ships scheduled to flood the newly-dredged ports of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale. This rail renaissance could make Florida the freight distribution hub of America. FEC is poised to become a giant mobilized industrial complex that grinds through the hearts of our coastal residences and vacation Meccas with 56 trains per day, with 32 of them simultaneously ripping through at Force III hurricane speeds of 110 m.p.h.

As I researched the joint AAF and FEC proposal, I discovered it is an experiment that has never been tried anywhere else in the world and for good reason. The proposal to send 32, 110 m.p.h. passenger trains per day to share the tracks with freight trains traveling at a closure rate of over 200 miles per hour transporting ammonium nitrate, bleach, sulfur dioxide, liquid propane gas---poison inhalation hazards, ethanol, which is more explosive than petroleum and liquid asphalt through the center of 42 towns that transit 342 rail crossings per day over bridges nearly 100 years old, I found to be unconscionable.

In 2014, there were a total of 2,280 train collisions resulting in 267 deaths. Since mid February 8 train derailments have occurred rupturing tank cars that exploded, spilling their contents, polluting waterways and igniting fires that burned for days. The vulnerabilities of the tank cars is well known by the DOT.

The FEC rail inter-modal facility in FLL is capable of loading 30,000 gallons of ethanol into just one tank car on trains 2.5 miles long. The liquid natural gas facility in Titusville will be sending its propane our way by rail.

These explosive contents are prone to catching fire, producing fireballs and devastation up to one mile from the blast. These catastrophic events send fire and explosions throughout entire neighborhoods. Imagine the loss of life, the damage to our towns, the pollutants into the lagoons and the financial costs which the DOT shows is in the billions.

Think about the number of trains and hazardous explosives that will be traveling every day simultaneously with AAF’s 110 m.p.h. passenger trains through our neighborhoods, close to our schools and playgrounds, our environmentally sensitive habitats and our lagoon.

FOX news and 20/20 have been reporting on the escalating number of derailments, collisions and explosions and what they call the “bomb trains” which they describe as epidemic in the U.S. The DOT, based upon anticipated shipping volumes and rail routes predict 15 derailments in 2015. There have already been 7.

So not only are we going to be living with this nightmare, we are going to be dying from it. In the past 15 years, there have been 272 deaths in the FEC corridor. Statistically, it is the most dangerous corridor in the US, and that is before we add 32 high speed rail trains per day. A tripling of freight along the corridor, adding 56 mixed-use trains per day increases the potential for accidents by 370%. With 342 crossings times 56 trains equals over 18,000 potential opportunities for accidents or deaths, per day. By the way, with trains closing down crossings every 20 minutes of every hour, good luck if you are having a heart attack and your ambulance is trying to cross the tracks and deliver you to the hospital when seconds count. IRM and other TC hospitals have written letters expressing their concerns about the potential loss of lives and threat to the health of its patients.

A passenger train traveling at 110 m.p.h. takes a minimum of 4,800’ to stop after applying the brakes. A freight train 2.5 miles long can take up to 2 miles to stop. For a passenger vehicle approaching the crossing, the gates lower 20 seconds before the train arrives. From the time a train horn is sounded, it takes 8 seconds until impact.

A mother trapped on the tracks in a car with a child in the back seat, a school bus filled with children, or a senior citizen trying to evacuate their vehicle have 8 seconds to die. By the way, 335 school buses cross the tracks in IRC per day.

The FDOT of transportation is woefully unprepared to deal with the unprecedented proposal to approve the operation of 110 m.p.h. trains simultaneous with freight in Florida. It has never been done. Their plan to industrialize our coastal towns while putting profit above lives should be stopped.