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Publisher's Letter

Publisher's Letter: Making The Fast Train Safe

It may not have been since Henry Flagler brought his Florida East Coast Railway down the Gold Coast in the 1890s that a train has gotten as much ink as the recently launched Brightline (soon to be Virgin Trains USA). Lately, it seems almost every day there is some news about the new service, with a lot of it relating to safety. Last month the Sun-Sentinel ran a front page story on the ugly fact that Brightline has the highest death rate of any U.S. railroad.

The story did point out that almost all the 40 deaths since 2017 have been either suicides or the result of human recklessness or stupidity. But the fact remains that trains traveling at 79 miles per hour over numerous grade crossings is inherently dangerous. Even the suicides would likely be reduced if the tracks were not at grade level and so easily accessible.

We have written about it in the past, but it bears repeating, that sections of the FEC need to be rebuilt to reduce this hazard. And if the railroad seeks controversial public funds for that effort, it should be noted that the government permitted many of those dangerous crossings long past the time when other busy railroads were eliminating them. In fairness, fast passenger trains were not anticipated when many of those crossings were permitted, in contrast to big city northern railroads, which had commuter service more than a century ago.

The sleek Brightline train has a frightening safety record.

The easiest cure would be simply eliminating some of the crossings, and the railroad is asking some cities to do just that. But many of the crossings are major streets, which can’t be closed without disrupting traffic and nearby businesses. In those situations, the tracks need to bridge the streets.

We hold that Brightline is a great potential benefit, and this issue features a piece by Eric Barton (page 48) on the activity being generated around the three stations along the line. As it grows with planned stations in Boca Raton and Aventura, both ridership and businesses near those stations will benefit. Brightline will not only be a fast train to Orlando, but also serve in Palm Beach, Broward and Dade counties as an efficient commuter service. Although opposition to the train continues on the Treasure Coast, we predict that will disappear if a station or two is built in Stuart and Vero Beach. You will have people able to commute quickly to jobs 50 miles and more from their homes.

The Super Bowl is returning to South Florida. Mike Morlacci provides an entertaining history of the championship games in this area on page 38. He lives in Pittsburgh, by the way, and his connection to our turf comes through his daughter Alyssa. She is our former managing editor who recently moved to California, where she is an editor for Malibu Magazine, a place as rich as Palm Beach—maybe even richer. And a busy railroad runs through it.