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Senator Rubio not all aboard with All Aboard Florida rail system

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety, and Security, today raised constituent concerns regarding the ongoing All Aboard Florida project and SunRail, Central Florida’s new commuter rail system.

During the subcommittee hearing, Rubio questioned the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), Joseph Szabo, on the FRA’s role in both responding to these concerns and overseeing the safety of these projects.

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Excerpts from the exchange are available below:

Senator Marco Rubio: “[…] I’ve also heard from constituents, including many in the Treasure Coast, which is just north of West Palm Beach, expressing concerns about the impact this could have on their community. The issues they’re concerned about are safety at the gate crossings and noise pollution. And I’ve passed these comments along to the FRA as we’ve gotten them, and I hope the agency has reviewed them. Can you share with us whether you are taking these concerns into consideration when you’re making assessments and conducting oversights over these projects?”

Rubio: “Let me ask specifically about safety. There’s already been an EIS conducted on the West Palm Beach to Miami segment, and you issued a finding of no significant impact. In that finding, the FRA lists over 120 locations for proposed crossing upgrades. Is the FRA proposing that those crossings be upgraded? Or are those upgrades that are being recommended by All Aboard Florida?”

Rubio: “I have one last question and it has to do with SunRail, a different project.”

FRA Administrator Joseph Szabo: “Ok, we’ll go to Orlando.”

Rubio: “Yeah, exactly. And it’s a new commuter rail system, for those not familiar with it. It just started operations last month. There was an incident in which a car stalled on the tracks and was struck by a SunRail train. Luckily, there was no one injured, but the collision, along with other close calls on the rail lines, has prompted calls for additional safety measures on the system.

“In fact, yesterday the Florida Highway Patrol announced that it’s going to be patrolling SunRail intersections to make sure drivers are following the law. So, as the agency with safety jurisdiction over SunRail, is FRA looking at these incidents? And what role does it play in recommending safety precautions or improvements?”

Rubio: “Ok, just to close up. Just back to the All Aboard Florida for a moment, as you work through the EIS process and the public hearings, and so forth, […]. How can my constituents best know where and when these hearings are going to take place and how they can best input?”

Dr. Richard Swier

Dr. Rich Swier is Publisher of www.DrRichSwier e-Magazine. Twitter: @drrichswier He holds a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Richard is a 23-year Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1990. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his years of service.

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