TRAIN WRECK TIMES
BY SUSAN MEHIEL
GOOD NEWS AND BAD
We are pleased to report our Guest Column in the TC Palm newspapers ran today. Read the article here.
And the bad news… before they even had time to publish the column, we had to ask for a revision because the 30th person died on the tracks. That’s 30 people since January 2018 and it’s getting worse, not better… there have been 8 deaths involving Virgin Trains since July 1.
As you will see, we are calling on the Florida Transportation Commission to stand up and serve its purpose as the “citizen oversight board” for the Florida Department of Transportation. FRA stats indicate the FEC corridor – both Virgin Trains and FEC freight – is the deadliest rail system in the country and we need action! Just before press time, we heard there was another FEC death in Lantana but the media isn’t reporting it so we can’t confirm. That would make 55 deaths for the corridor since Jan. 2018.
One of the most frustrating things about this war is that the enemy consists of corporate management totally removed from the towns they’re impacting. Fortress Investment Group – New York City, Grupo Mexico – Mexico City, FECR – Jacksonville, Virgin Trains – Coral Gables. You can be sure no trains are threatening the lives of their employees and families or the quiet enjoyment of their neighborhoods.
There is something terribly wrong here and we know what it is.
FDOT is not demanding Virgin Trains install the equipment which will deter pedestrians from crossing the tracks, cars from going around gates or getting stuck between the gates and the electronic devices to detect vehicles on the tracks, to name a few. Senator Mayfield is sponsoring legislation during the new session that will direct FDOT to implement the safety recommendations in the OPPAGA study. This is the study conducted by an international transportation consulting firm that found Florida has no distinct safety requirements for trains going 80 – 125 mph and much more should be required.
What YOU Can Do
Attached is a list of the Treasure and Space Coast state and local elected officials and FTC contacts – they need to hear from you! Please call and write them this week and tell them they must support Senator Mayfield’s legislation. Don’t assume they know how you feel! Tell your county commissions and city councils to show their support for the legislation with letters to the Governor and Transportation Secretary Thibault. State Senators and Representatives can commit to signing the legislation and tell their constituents they will do so, NOW!
In particular: Martin County – Rep. Toby Overdorf has refused to support the legislation. Brevard County – Rep. Randy Fine has not supported Senator Mayfield’s legislation. Someone in Palm Bay is delusional and thinks they will get a stop – contact them and tell them not to bargain away your lives!
Better still, we will be targeting the town councils and county commissions up and down the coast to speak at their meetings. We need constituent voices (or just your presence) if we are going to Make Them Safe! We need you!
If you would like to help, please respond to our newsletter and tell us where you live and if you can join us at a meeting there. Sign up for our newsletter on our website.
We’ve been busy… we spoke at the Brevard and Indian River Counties’ Delegation Meetings last week. We supported Senator Mayfield’s new legislation and the need for more safety equipment. We were also in US District Court in Washington DC last week for the oral arguments in the Indian River County appeal for its lawsuit against the US DOT. The suit challenged the PAB bonds approval and the lack of adherence to the National Environmental Protection Act, Environmental Impact Statement process.
We felt the IRC attorney did an excellent job of explaining the Virgin Trains project does NOT qualify for Private Activity Bonds because, as the statute reads, it is not a roadway project or freight rail installation. They cannot claim that federal money used as far back as 2009 for roadway repairs at grade crossings by FEC was used with the intention to benefit All Aboard Florida. We also know the many important safety issues brought up in the draft EIS responses were never adequately addressed in the final Statement. As soon as the three-judge panel sends down their decision, we will let you know.
One last thought… we were very pleased to see a national publication, Bloomberg BusinessWeek report truthfully about the Virgin Trains project. They noted, as we have, their ridership numbers – 639,373 through August – means they will miss their 2019 ridership projections by OVER 50%! A number of bond market analysts are quite skeptical of both the Florida project and their new ‘train to Las Vegas’ project. We would be, too!
As we gear up for the season, we’ll keep you posted about train developments – you keep contacting your elected officials. They may start listening with an election year right around the corner! Don’t forget to tell your friends about our newsletter and how everyone can stay on top of things by following our Facebook page, Florida Alliance for Safe Trains.
Florida Alliance for Safe Trains