The instructions seem simple enough: When the safety gates drop, the lights flash and the bell sounds, don’t cross the tracks.
A train is coming — and it can reach speeds of 79 miles per hour.
About 20 new digital signs installed over the weekend along Brightline’s Fort Lauderdale to West Palm Beach route aim to underscore the company’s safety message and deter illegal crossings. Each city along the corridor has at least one sign located at an intersection, and the signs will rotate over the next few weeks.
Also in the works is the deployment of “safety ambassadors” who will patrol railroad crossings.
The new measures come on the heels of two high-profile deaths along the Florida East Coast railway, both involving illegal crossings along Brightline’s route. A third person was struck and injured on Friday night.
The private passenger train company, which debuted its service Jan. 13, has been involved in four crossing-related deaths since last year, and two just this month. The two most recent incidents sparked calls for safety reviews from Florida’s U.S. senators, Republican Marco Rubio and Democrat Bill Nelson. The company said its safety systems worked properly during the incidents.
“It is critical that the Department of Transportation assess safety measures with Brightline, while coordinating with local officials and members of the community to prevent future tragedies from occurring,” Rubio wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. “In response to these recent and tragic events, how does the Department intend to ensure that the Florida Department of Transportation, its local partners and Florida East Coast Railway safeguard pedestrians at Brightline rail crossings?”
With plans to expand service to downtown Miami and Orlando, Brightline had a news conference Friday emphasizing its commitment to safety. Along with its new initiatives, the company will continue broadcasting public service announcements through local media in an attempt to “amplify” its message.
Over the weekend, company representatives attended local events along the Broward to Palm Beach County route, handing out “thousands” of informational fliers about rail safety, company spokesperson Ali Soule wrote in an email on Tuesday morning.
“This is an expansion of Brightline’s education campaign that started almost a year ago,” Soule said. “The company implores motorists and pedestrians to adhere to the laws and regulations in place and stay off the train tracks!”
While the new signs are temporary, there are permanent signs along the tracks that say “No Trespassing” and more conventional signs that designate railroad crossings
Brightline president and chief operating officer Patrick Goddard has publicly invited Rubio and Nelson to tour the Brightline facilities and to help their safety message reach a broader audience.
“We share their priority and focus on safety. What I would like to do is I would like to invite them to spend some time with us and understand what we have done,” Goddard said. “We need their help, we need their assistance in amplifying the message that we’re trying to send to the community today.”