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Apr 18

Florida’s High Speed Train Project Threatened By Environmental Concerns

The highly anticipated Florida high speed train that will eventually take travellers from the theme parts of Orlando to Miami in a mere three hours is currently threatened by environmental concerns. The first privately funded US passenger railway in decades launched just two weeks ago, hoping to provide a greener alternative to the already clogged up highways. However, executives at Brightline soon came crashing back down to earth.

Before passengers had even left the station at Fort Lauderdale on the opening day, a pedestrian was killed at a road crossing by a Brightline train that was supposed to showcase a high speed link to journalists. There were two more crossing strikes over the next 7 days, with one of them fatal. A serious safety debate took place, even though the victims had all passed barriers before being struck by the train. Although Brightline took care to use safety measures like oil stop valves environmental concerns also linger over the final construction phase of the 235-mile line, from Palm Beach county to Orlando.

A US Congressman, Brian Mast, wants to shut down work on the railway altogether. Senators Bill Nelson and Marc Rubio are demanding a federal review. This is no doubt terrible PR for Brightline and the project they’ve worked so hard to bring to fruition, and greatly overshadows what was meant to be an exciting new progression for mass transit in the sunshine state.

Florida East Coast Industries, the real estate and transportation giant behind Brightline, and its subsidiary All Aboard Florida, which operates the railway, have enthusiastically pushed the project, so it’s bad news all around. Both have even stressed what they say are the environmental benefits of Brightline’s low-emission, diesel-electric trains, although Brightline’s competition don’t seem to agree that the claims they are making are true.

According to Brightline, the trains will mean three million fewer cars on the roads, improve air quality in cities, and provide millions of tourists and commuters a more comfortable, speedier and less costly alternative to flying or driving. However, competitors dispute all of these claims and say that the figures are pulled from the air. To Brightline’s opponents, the shared freight line poses one of the projects biggest potential environmental hazards, especially in cities that trains will travel through at speed.

Several counties have also sued Brightline, whose trains will run nonstop through their territory, between West Palm Beach and Orlando. However, none of them have been successful. It seems people are throwing anything they can think of up to stop what’s going on and increase the costs to a point that is unmanageable.

Brightline is planning a list of safety upgrades to the line in Orlando and hopes that this will make a difference for the future, avoiding similar tragedies to those we’ve experienced so far. What do you think of Florida’s high speed train project – do you think it should go ahead or be shut down? Leave your thoughts below.

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