House subcommittee postpones vote on high-speed rail bill

UPDATE, 11:05 a.m.: A citizen’s group opposing All Aboard Florida’s Brightline service has released a statement following today’s meeting.

“We are disappointed that the subcommittee did not debate the bill today, but we respect the legislative process, and look forward to more dialogue about this important legislation in due course,” said Brent Hanlon, chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion, also known as CARE FL. “All Aboard Florida (AAF) is taking a victory lap today in its public statements, but its latest actions are nothing more than a special interest group flexing its political muscle in a desperate attempt to protect its profits which are reliant on taxpayer subsidies. AAF continues to put the communities of South Florida on the hook for millions in upgrades to enhance safety measures and make a grab for taxpayer subsidies. We will continue to advocate for legislation that puts public safety first and we know that our elected leaders want the same. This is nothing more than an ill-conceived rail project by a private company that wants to shift costs to the taxpayers.”

ORIGINAL STORY: A House subcommittee postponed its vote this morning on a bill that would regulate high-speed passenger trains like All Aboard Florida’s Brightline.

Brightline’s second train set, dubbed BrightPink because of its color scheme, arrived in West Palm Beach on this month. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

The bill (HB 269) was to be taken up by the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, but members announced this morning that they were postponing the issue.

RELATED: Concern over Brightline prompts lawmakers to consider rail regulations
RELATED: Opinion: All Aboard Florida trying to keep Brightline’s future from dimming

A companion bill (SB 386) filed in the Senate cleared its first hurdle earlier this month, winning support from the Senate’s Committee on Transportation.

It would require high-speed rail companies such as All Aboard Florida to install safety features and pay for fencing along sections of its tracks where pedestrians could be at risk.

The bill also would establish minimum safety standards for high-speed rail, including the installation of Positive Train Control and Remote Health Monitoring safety technology. The features are designed to help stop a train if the engineer falls ill or a crossing gate malfunctions.

RELATED: See inside All Aboard Florida’s first Brightline train

In a statement released this morning, Brightline officials said the bill is deigned to target its passenger train service, which is set to begin operating between West Palm Beach and Miami this summer.

““The fact that the bill was pulled from the committee agenda today means the overwhelming input from groups such as the Florida Chamber and Florida TaxWatch, elected officials from key cities and newspaper editorial boards is making an impact,” said Rusty Roberts, Vice President of Government Affairs for Brightline.  “We have been saying this bill is not about safety but an attack against private property rights and is targeting our company.  Legislators are comprehending these facts, and we are appreciative.”

Do you have a staycation deal? The Post wants to hear from you

Attention hotels, resorts, spas and attractions: Do you have a great Summer Staycation deal?

(The Palm Beach Post)
(The Palm Beach Post)

Tell us about it!

We’ll publish a roundup of summer deals in the June 10 TGIF section and www.palmbeachpost.com – where we’ll reach even more out-of-towners.

To get your deal listed, email the details to Pbfeatures@gmail.com.

 

A record-breaking number of tourists visited Florida in 2015

A record-breaking 105 million tourists visited Florida in 2015, beating last year’s all-time high of 98.5 million visitors during by 6.6 percent, according to data released Thursday by Gov. Rick Scott’s office.

The milestone marks the fifth consecutive year of record tourism growth in the state. 112614 weather 1

“Tourism plays an important role in supporting our economy, and we will continue to make strategic investments in the tourism industry to keep Florida on track to becoming first for jobs,” Scott said Thursday in a statement released by his office. “With five consecutive record years for tourism, it is time to set our goal even higher, and I look forward to welcoming 115 million visitors to the Sunshine State this year.”

Tourism-related jobs are also at an all-time high, according to Visit Florida, the state’s tourism marketing organization.

Nearly 1.2 million Floridians were employed in the tourism industry in 2015 – up 4.7 percent over the same period last year.

Palm Beach County’s tourism industry also saw record-breaking growth last year.

(The Palm Beach Post)
(The Palm Beach Post)

Roughly 6.9 million people visited the county last year, a 10 percent increase over the record set in 2014, when 6.3 million traveled here, Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing organization said last week.

Roughly 4.3 million nightly bookings were made at Palm Beach County’s hotels and motels last year, up from 4.19 million in 2014.

While the number of domestic visitors grew by 11.7 percent in 2015, the county saw a slight drop in international travelers, Discover said.

Discover officials said visitors from international markets fell by 0.4 percent last year, but noted other vacation destinations in Florida and across the U.S. have experienced a similar decline.

Statewide, Visit Florida estimates that a record 89.8 million domestic visitors traveled to Florida in 2015 — an 8 percent increase over 2014.  The organization said estimates show 11.2 million overseas visitors and 4 million Canadians came to the Sunshine State last year.