Brightline to bring new “safety risks” to FEC tracks, report finds

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline would bring new “safety risks” to the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, according to a report released Wednesday by Martin County officials.

The seven-page report, which was prepared on behalf of the county by rail expert George Gavalla, came a day after a House committee postponed a vote on legislation imposing regulations on high-speed rail projects like Brightline. Brightline has adamantly opposed the bill.

Brightline’s first train rolling through West Palm Beach on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

In the report, Gavalla says Brightline would add fast-moving passenger trains to a rail corridor now serving only freight traffic.  The FEC tracks, he says, are already among the deadliest in the nation with “with the highest pedestrian fatality rate and one of the highest crossing accident fatality rates in the entire country.”

“No other U.S. passenger rail system combines 110 mph passenger trains and 70 mph freight operating through such densely populated urban areas and along coastal recreation areas with such a high concentration of tourists and seasonal visitors,” the report says.

Brightline officials took aim at the report on Wednesday saying it was designed to fit the county’s “anti-train agenda.”

Martin County has pledged more than $2 million to fight Brightline, which plans to carry passengers between Miami and Orlando in about three hours.

Brightline is fully complying with the most stringent safety regulations” set by the Federal Railroad Administration and the Florida Department of Transportation,” Brightline said in a statement released Wednesday. “This report, funded by Martin County taxpayers, is yet another attempt to propagate misinformation and hypothetical situations intended to scare its citizens in order to fit the anti-train agenda. The Treasure Coast has a history of paying consultants to give them the story they want, as demonstrated by the previous reports developed on grade crossing impacts and the St. Lucie River bridge.”

It’s unclear how much Martin County paid for the study. A county spokeswoman said Wednesday officials have yet to receive an invoice.