Brightline asks opponents for help with safety campaign

All Aboard Florida’s Brightline on Tuesday called on its opponents who have been fighting to block the passenger service to help spread its safety message following recent deaths involving the private rail venture’s trains.

In a letter to the chairman of Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida, Brightline’s President and Chief Operating Officer Patrick Goddard urged the group to help with an expanded safety campaign the company launched on Friday after two people were struck and killed by its trains in less than a week.

A third pedestrian was hit on Friday in the hours after the company announced its new safety push. The person’s injuries were not life-threatening, police said.

In all three incidents, police said those struck did not heed warning lights and crossing gates positioned at the rail crossings.

RELATED: Brightline to add safety ambassadors, more signs at key crossings

“We are making this request of CARE because your website and marketing materials state ‘Safety is one of our top concerns,’” Goddard wrote in the letter to CARE Chairman Brent Hanlon. “What better way to communicate this message than to drop our political differences in the interest of working together for the betterment of our communities, schools and residents. A partnership like this would establish an unparalleled example of compromise and commitment to doing what is right.”

CARE has spent years trying to stop Brightline’s second phase, planned between West Palm Beach and Orlando. CARE has argued Brightline’s fast-moving trains would create safety problems and harm the quality of life along the Treasure Coast.

Hanlon said Tuesday that Goddard’s letter marks the first time “any of us can remember” that Brigthline executives have reached out to the group.

“This request comes after the AAF train has caused four fatalities and one serious injury in a very short time period; derailed its passenger train without making that public and for years ignoring community concerns about safety that CARE FL has documented and put forward,” Hanlon said in a statement released by the group. “AAF/Brightline has never acknowledged the real problem—that the hundreds of at-grade crossings remain a constant threat to pedestrians, bikes and cars crossing the tracks with trains traveling 80 to 110 miles. But, we are happy to meet with AAF/Brightline to discuss safety.”

Brightline’s trains are expected to reach speeds of 110 mph between West Palm Beach and Cocoa and 125mph between Cocoa and Orlando.

Goddard’s request of the group comes as the the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee is set to hold a workshop today to discuss a bill filled by State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, that would put more regulations on express and high-speed trains such as Brightline.

The bill (SB 572) would require rail companies operating trains at speeds in excess of 80 mph, including the Brightline project, to install safety features, cover the cost of maintaining rail crossings, pay for fencing along sections of tracks where pedestrians could be at risk, and help train first responders in the event of an accident involving passenger trains or hazardous materials.

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