Brightline Executive Responds To Safety Concerns Amid Rail Crossing Deaths

Jan 18, 2018

A Brightline train struck and killed a bicyclist in Boynton Beach on Wednesday afternoon, upping safety concerns in communities where the new high-speed railway travels.

It's the second time since service started last week that people have been hit and killed. In both cases, authorities say the people who died went around safety gates before being hit.

Brightline's president and chief operating officer, Patrick Goddard, said the public needs to learn how to better behave around railroad crossings. 

"Just like you wouldn't encourage anyone to go and walk across I-95, it's really an education thing. And we're doing everything we can to get that message out," Goddard said, speaking in a wide-ranging interview with WLRN on Wednesday morning. News of the second fatality came a few hours later.

The 51-year-old man who died was hit by the train in the 400 block of Ocean Avenue. Last Friday, there was another fatality in Boynton Beach when a train struck and killed a 31-year-old woman as she tried to walk across the tracks near Northeast Sixth Avenue.

Two other people were killed this past summer as the trains and tracks were being tested. One of those deaths, in Boca Raton, was ruled a suicide.

Goddard said safety has been a top priority at crossings.

"You've got audible sirens going off. You've got lights going off. You've got the actual gate going down. You've got signs before the crossing. You've got signs after the crossing. There isn't a whole lot more you can do to communicate that it isn't a good time to cross the railroad," he said.

A number of Florida lawmakers have expressed concern about the deaths. In a letter to U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Sen. Bill Nelson asked the federal government to determine whether additional actions need to be taken to improve grade crossing safety.

"The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008 required the top 10 states with the highest number of highway-rail grade crossing collisions, including Florida, to submit plans that identified specific solutions for improving safety at crossings. In that plan, Florida identified that Palm Beach County, where these incidents occurred, was one of the highest counties for such incidents," the letter reads.

You can hear the entire conversation between Brightline CEO Patrick Goddard and WLRN's Tom Hudson on Monday's edition of The Sunshine Economy.