ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Central Florida is on track to get a new high-speed train, and construction will begin in early 2018, company officials said.
Brightline would run service from West Palm through Brevard County and to Orlando. Federal transportation officials granted the extension of the rail line on Friday.
The diesel higher-speed rail system was developed by All Aboard Florida.
The transportation hub for Brightline will be at Orlando International Airport; however, some are calling for it to sit empty while safety changes are made.
"None of the safety concerns has been addressed at this point. The fundamental problem of this railroad is that it's running through an area that has grown 10,000 percent,” Citizens Against Rail Expansion attorney Steve Ryan said.
The train could hit speeds of 120 mph and go from West Palm to Orlando in two hours.
But Florida Sen. Debbie Mayfield, of Melbourne, said that speed could come with a price. She's fought to include more safety features along the route.
"All Aboard Florida has fought us tooth and nail to implement the safety requirements the community feels is important to protect our citizens,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield wants fencing along the route to keep people off the tracks. Mayfield also wants Positive Train Control implemented, a system designed to stop derailments caused by excessive speed.
Brightline officials said they will include the safety system, but exact details have not been released.
Mayfield has met with Brightline officials who contend they meet federal safety standards, but she wants Florida rail officials to oversee safety requirements.
"We don't have a rail policy in place for high-speed rails because we've never had high-speed rail come through Florida,” Mayfield said.
Brightline said in a statement, "When Brightline launches introductory service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Automatic Train Control will be operational. Automatic Train Control monitors the train’s speed and notifies the engineer if the locomotive is going too fast. When Brightline extends service to Miami, Automatic Train Control will also be operational.
"We are currently coordinating the implementation of PTC with the Federal Railroad Administration in anticipation that it will be operational in advance of the 2018 deadline. When Brightline launches service to Orlando, PTC will be operational for the entire corridor.
"FRA requires one locomotive engineer in the cab operating at all times. When Brightline launches its service, we will have a locomotive engineer and a train manager in the cab during operations."
Mayfield’s bill passed in the Florida Senate Committee on Transportation last month. It’s currently sitting in committee.
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