Rail groups combine to promote safety in Florida; counter dangerous message

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A Brightline train crosses Lantana Road at its intersection with Dixie Highway north of Boynton Beach, Fla., on Jan. 10. Three rail-related organizations have joined forces to promote grade-crossing safety in the wake of fatal accidents along Brightline's route.
Bob Johnston

WASHINGTON — Three rail-related organization have joined forces to publicize safety around Florida rail lines after recent deaths along the right-of-way of Brightline passenger service — and in response to what the groups call an anti-rail campaign including a potentially dangerous message.

The Rail Passengers Association, Association of American Railroads, and American Public Transportation Association, in a joint press release, emphasize "it is never OK to use tracks as walking paths, and tracks should only be traversed using properly marked grade crossings."

The groups’ message was prompted in part by a news release from Citizens Against Rail Expansion in Florida. In that Jan. 16 statement, the group’s chairman, Brent Hanlon, seemed to support the idea of youths using railroads as a walking path, saying, "We need safety measures in place that will protect our pedestrians, our school children who may walk or bike along the tracks to school, our first responders, and members of our community."

That comment drew a strong reaction from heads of two of the rail groups.

"These tragic accidents are opportunities to teach pedestrians how to avoid dangerous situations, and we are committed to helping spread that message,” said Jim Mathews, president and CEO of RPA. “What CARE-FL has done in endorsing railroad rights-of-way as a way to get to and from school is equivalent to telling kids it’s OK to play in traffic.”

Said AAR President and CEO Ed Hamberger, "All of us have a role to play in preventing these tragedies, including discouraging reckless behavior on and around railroad tracks.Tracks are not playgrounds or shortcuts. When you see tracks, you need to think train."

A pedestrian and a bicyclist were killed when hit by trains, and another pedestrian was hit and suffered non-life-threatening injuries, in an eight-day period as Brightline began service earlier this month. In at least two of the cases, the victims went around lowered crossing gates in an effort to cross before the train passed.

NEWSWIRETrains News Wire

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