Highlights of Florida State Senator Debbie Mayfield’s Bill, The Florida High-Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act.

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Florida State Senator Debbie Mayfield

THE PUBLIC PURPOSE AND INTENT OF THE BILL IS TO ENCOURAGE THE CREATION OF SAFE AND COST-EFFECTIVE TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS FOR FLORIDA’S RESIDENTS AND VISITORS, INCLUDING HIGH-SPEED PASSENGER RAIL SYSTEMS, AND TO PROMOTE AND ENHANCE THE SAFETY OF HIGH-SPEED PASSENGER RAIL SYSTEMS TO PROTECT THE HEALTH, SAFETY, AND THE WELFARE OF THE PUBLIC.

The act would apply to any railroad company operating a high-speed passenger rail system, or any railroad company that allows a high-speed rail system to operate on or within its rail corridor.

The railroad company must provide the Federal Railroad Commission (FRA) with information sufficient to demonstrate the company has the ability to pay the costs of remediating a reasonable worst-case unplanned release of liquified natural gas and shall develop rules to determine applicable criteria for a reasonable worst-case unplanned release of liquified natural gas.

The railroad company must install safety technology that has been approved by the FRA, which, at a minimum, shall include positive train control and remote health monitoring.

Before operating a high-speed passenger rail system, a railroad company shall also:

a) install or realign crossing gates so the gates are parallel to the tracks and in accordance with the most recent edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices published by the FRA;

b) Equip all automatic public railroad-highway grade crossing warning systems with remote health monitoring technology capable of detecting false activations and other crossing signal malfunctions and notifying the train dispatcher and crossing signal maintenance personnel whenever such a malfunction is detected;

c) Construct and maintain fencing in accordance with s. 341.611

A railroad company that constructs or operates a high-speed passenger rail system on tracks that intersect with a public street or highway at grade, shall at its sole cost and expense, (emphasis added) construct and thereafter maintain, renew and repair all railroad roadbed, track, and railroad culverts within the confines of the public street or highway, and the streets or pedestrian grade crossings lying between the rails and for a distance outside the rails of one foot beyond the end of the railroad ties.

FRA shall conduct field surveys of the rail corridor to determine areas where fencing is necessary for the health, safety and welfare of the public, to include, at a minimum, pedestrian traffic generators, such as nearby schools and parks, and signs of current pedestrian traffic that crosses the railroad tracks

Further, FRA must hold at least one public meeting in each community where new or substantially modified fencing is proposed before designs and plans for such fencing are finalized.

Once it has been determined that a fence is necessary to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the surrounding community, the railroad company operating a high-speed passenger rail system shall construct and maintain the fence (emphasis added) on both sides of its railroad tracks sufficient to prevent intrusion. The fencing must be at least 4 1/2 feet in height.

A railroad company operating a high-speed passenger rail system shall be solely responsible for all rail corridor improvements or upgrades relating to the system’s operation and safety. A local government or the state shall  not be responsible for any costs associated with the construction and maintenance of the improvements necessary to operate a high-speed passenger rail system unless it expressly consents in writing. (emphasis added)

The act does not prevent a local government from enacting ordinances regulating the speed limits of railroad traffic due to local safety hazards not statewide in nature and not capable of being adequately encompassed within the national uniform standards.

As reported by http://www.myPalmBeachPost.com on February 22 “the Transportation & Infrastructure subcommittee spent about an hour listening to a group of rail experts weigh in on the proposal.

All Aboard Florida General Counsel Myles Tobin said, if approved, the proposed bill would delay the project and add tens of millions of dollars to its price tag.

The fencing requirements alone would cost as much as $65 million, Tobin told the subcommittee. The company would have to spend $6 million a year maintaining the fencing, he added.

Tobin also argued state lawmakers don’t have the legal authority to impose regulations based on the speed of a train. Decisions about safety requirements should be left to state and federal transportation officials, he added.”

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