MARTIN COUNTY, Fla. -- Martin County leaders fear a high-speed rail service proposed to travel through the Treasure Coast may cause significant safety risks.
Looking for more information about whether safety would be jeopardized by the train, county leaders paid for an independent expert to research the issue.Gavalla,
In the 7-page report completed by national rail safety expert and consultant, George Gavalla, Martin County Spokeswoman, Gabriella Ferraro, called the details 'alarming'.
Gavalla said deadly accidents and safety risks will rise dramatically on the Treasure Coast with the operation of high-speed passenger trains.
He also said the proposed All Aboard Florida rail system would have unique safety concerns compared to other passenger rail systems in the U.S.
His summary stated "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".
He also said the current FEC rail line is among the deadliest in the U.S., including the highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country.
The study also found train speeds could nearly triple from an average of 32 MPH to 110 MPH. The number of trains will increase from approximately 10 per day to 54 per day, according to Gavalla.
Gavalla said the risk of "secondary collisions" would rise with the addition of a second main track. Because AAF proposes to run both passenger and freight trains on FEC tracks, a passenger train could derail at high speeds and collide with a freight train or with another passenger train standing or moving on an adjacent track.
The report also said it is unusual for counties and taxpayers to take on excessive safety costs. In most states, Gavella said, the railroads pay for all maintenance costs for highway-rail grade crossings. In some places, the state contributes a small share to crossing signal maintenance costs. In Florida, he found the county or local municipalities were often paying for nearly all crossing maintenance costs and the cost of railroad track maintenance and rehabilitation in and near the crossings.
Ferraro says Martin County could pay more than $31 million by 2040 for the upgrades and improvements necessary for the proposed AAF project.
Ali Soule, a spokeswoman for All Aboard Florida, provided the following statement regarding the report:
"Brightline is fully complying with the most stringent safety regulations set by the FRA and FDOT. 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."
Ferraro said the county has tried to get similar information, without success, directly from AAF officials.
"We've been unsuccessful trying to get this really critical information out of this company so as a result we're having to gather the information that we can independently."
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