February 17, 2020
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The Florida Department of Transportation launched a two-year, $60 million effort to deploy brighter and bigger pavement markings at more than 4,000 railroad-grade crossings across the state alongside the implementation of a public safety education program regarding such crossings.

[Above photo by the Florida DOT.]

Kevin Thibault, Florida DOT secretary, said in a December 5 statement that this directive “has the explicit goal of preventing fatalities on or near rail crossings on state roads and state-owned land crossings.”

Kevin Thibault

He noted that in 2014 and 2017 the Florida DOT conducted dynamic envelope pilot programs in south and central Florida, respectively, and found that they helped reduce the number of vehicles stopping on or too close to rail crossings by at least 15 percent. This new directive combines additional engineering countermeasures with education and enforcement countermeasures, which the agency believes will generate even more compliance with rail safety laws.

The move comes on the heels of an Associated Press report on December 2 that found more than 40 rail-crossing fatalities have been associated with Brightline – Florida’s higher-speed passenger rail service – since it launched in January 2018.

Though that report found that suicides represented the majority of those fatalities – with the others involving impatient motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists who misjudged the speed of those trains while and ignoring bells, gates, or other warnings – Florida DOT’s Thibault said his agency is acting now in order to prevent more from happening.

“One fatality on our rail crossings is one too many, and I am committed to doing everything I can as Secretary to prevent additional tragedies from occurring across our state,” he added. “I am confident [this] directive not only exceeds industry safety standards, but also designates Florida as a nationwide leader in rail safety.”

The agency noted that work to implement the dynamic envelopes on more than 4,000 rail crossings across Florida is anticipated to be completed by March 2022, with the estimated cost of nearly $60 million to be absorbed by the Florida DOT over the next three fiscal years.

 

editor@aashto.org

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