On Thursday, Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) Secretary Kevin Thibault issued a directive “for the implementation of unprecedented rail safety measures and the launch of a statewide education initiative.”
Thibault said the directive was driven by recent train accidents across the state including a woman killed by a Brightline train and a grandmother and two children killed in an accident with an Amtrak train last month.
“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,” said Thibault.“Under the leadership of Governor DeSantis, FDOT has been empowered to implement bold ideas that will increase the safety of our transportation system, and I am confident today’s directive not only exceeds industry safety standards, but it also designates Florida as a nationwide leader in rail safety.”
Thibault’s directive includes the following actions:
- Immediately begin implementing an engineering countermeasure called “dynamic envelopes” at every existing FDOT roadway and state-owned land rail crossing across the state.
- Require the inclusion of a dynamic envelope in the standard design of any future railroad crossings on FDOT roadways or state-owned land rail crossings.
- Launch a data-driven statewide rail safety education initiative. “Operation STRIDE” (Statewide Traffic and Railroad Initiative using Dynamic Envelopes) will be conducted in conjunction with rail partners to include earned, social, and digital media.
- Partner with state and local law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Highway Patrol, sheriffs, and police chiefs, to help enforce rail safety laws.
- Continue to partner with local and private rail partners by sharing FDOT rail safety design standards and framework and encouraging their participation and implementation of the safety and engineering efforts.
“This announcement truly showcases that FDOT is committed to keeping those who utilize the state’s transportation system safe and could serve as a national model,” said Florida Transportation Commission Chairman Ronald Howse. “I applaud the governor’s leadership and Secretary Thibault’s bold and unprecedented actions to address rail safety in Florida.”
Thibault’s office cited dynamic envelope pilot programs conducted in South Florida in 2014 and in Central Florida in 2017.
“Following the installation of the dynamic envelope, traffic data indicated that the number of vehicles that stopped on or too close to rail crossings was reduced by at least 15 percent,” FDOT noted. “Today’s directive combines additional engineering countermeasures with education and enforcement countermeasures; therefore, FDOT anticipates even more compliance with rail safety laws.”
In the meantime, FDOT plans to create dynamic envelopes across the state, hoping to add more than 4,000 rail crossings throughout the state between now and March 2022 at a cost of just under $60 million.