Florida’s deadly high-speed train to get $25 million safety upgrade

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Tracks used by the nation’s deadliest railroad will see additional fencing to keep pedestrians out and safety improvements at crossings under a $25 million federal grant announced Monday.

Brightline and government officials announced the grant as the private passenger line continues to be plagued by fatalities along its tracks between Miami and West Palm Beach.

In the past two weeks, Brightline trains have killed three people and 68 since the service began its first runs five years ago. That’s about one death for every 33,000 miles (53,000 kilometers) its trains travel, and it’s the worst death rate among the nation’s more than 800 railroads, according to an ongoing analysis by The Associated Press. Federal Railroad Administration data.

The grant, part of the US Department of Transportation’s Rebuilding America’s Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity program, will cover security features, including 33 miles (53 kilometers) of fencing where trespassing is common as well as major crossing improvements at the 333 crossings along the corridor. , which will eventually stretch from Miami to Orlando, said Brightline President Patrick Goddard.

The company will also install 150 additional warning signs and another 170 suicide crisis hotline signs “to better reach those who may be struggling with suicide,” Goddard said.

None of the deaths involving Brightline have been attributed to the railroad, its equipment or its crews. Law enforcement investigations showed most of the victims were suicidal, drunk, mentally ill or had driven around barriers at an intersection in an attempt to beat the trains, which travel at up to 79 mph (128 km/h) through densely populated areas with stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach.

“We want Brightline to be in the news for all the right reasons,” Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said at a press conference in Fort Lauderdale. “Unfortunately, there have been too many incidents, some of which when we are dealing with a sadly determined person who wants to end his life on track.

Officials hope suicide crisis hotline signs and fencing in areas where multiple pedestrian deaths have occurred will help.

They also addressed motorists trying to cross the tracks in front of a train.

“When you see those train doors come down, you’re not going to beat a train up,” Broward County Mayor Michael Udine said. “Don’t try. Don’t. Be careful. Be smart.

To help fulfill the private/public partnership, Brightline and the Florida Department of Transportation are each contributing $10 million, bringing the project to $45 million.

“It’s a big day and we’re dealing with a really big deal,” said Republican Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, who sits with Wasserman Schultz on the House Appropriations Committee. “What Brightline does and what they have done is a national model.”

Brightline will install delineators and curb strips, as well as painted boxes on the roadway at crossings in an effort to keep motorists out of danger zones, Goddard said. They will also put up plastic posts, similar to those used to separate express lanes on freeways, to prevent drivers from changing lanes in an effort to circumvent crossing bars that warn of oncoming trains.

The tracks are shared by Brightline and Florida East Coast Railway, with the higher-speed passenger trains making stops in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach throughout the day. Stations are currently being added to Aventura, North Miami, and Boca Raton. An extension to Orlando, which would connect Miami to central Florida, is planned for 2023.

Pictured: Broward County Mayor Michael Udine speaks during a press conference at the Brightline station in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Looking for U.S. Rep. Shiela Cherfilus-McCormick , D-Fla., USA Rep. Mario Diaz Ballart, R-Fla., U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and Brightline CEO Patrick Goddard. The Florida Department of Transportation and Brightline have received a $25 million grant to improve safety along the Florida East Coast Railway-Brightline corridor between Miami-Dade and Brevard counties. (Joe Cavaretta/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Jose P. Rogers