Mayfield bill calls for state oversight of Brightline

State Sen. Debbie Mayfield (R – Vero Beach) has re-filed a bill that would give state government and even local governments some sway over the higher-speed Brightline trains that may eventually barrel through Indian River County en route to Orlando and back.

Perhaps most important, it would free local governments from paying for track upgrades and signal maintenance. Indian River County Attorney Dylan Reingold recently estimated the county would spend between $11.5 million and $13.8 million to cover the cost of improvements at its 32 rail crossings. In Vero Beach, City Manager Jim O’Connor estimated a $100,000 annual bill for maintenance at crossings.

Dubbed the “High Speed Passenger Rail Safety Act,” the bill maintains the federal government as the foremost authority, but gives the state, specifically the Florida Department of Transportation, broader say.

There’s momentum for more oversight of All Aboard Florida. It was recently revealed that one of the Brightline locomotives derailed back in February. The low-speed accident took place in a railyard, causing more than $400,000 damage. The incident became public when the opposition group Citizens Against Rail Expansion FL used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain a copy of the accident report from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Momentum for passing the bill is more difficult. Mayfield entered a bill under the same name in January. The Senate Transportation Committee passed it unanimously. When the companion bill was sent to the House of Representatives, it died after the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee neglected to take up the legislation.

Brightline spokeswoman Ali Soule told the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week that Mayfield’s bill was unconstitutional. “It targets a private company and private property rights,” she said in part.

The language in Mayfield’s bill, however, encompasses any high-speed train. More specifically, trains that exceed 80 mph. Brightline trains fall within that range.

Rep. MaryLynn Magar, R-Tequesta, has said she intends to file a House version of Mayfield’s bill.

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