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Miami-Dade Mayor Wants Fast Train But Wants It Safe

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) - In the short time Brightline has been testing, then operating its rapid rail passenger service between Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale, four people, three pedestrians and a bicyclist, have been struck and killed by the trains, a fifth person has been injured. Two people were killed in the trains' first week of service.

The Brightline coaches are due to speed into Miami-Dade this year, but Mayor Carlos Gimenez is saying not so fast. While Gimenez thinks fast train service, that will eventually link Miami, Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Orlando is a good thing, he also wants to make certain it's safe. He's fired off a letter to the state's secretary of transportation asking for a full review of Brightline's safety efforts. Gimenez wants the state to review every crossing in Miami-Dade and develop a "plan of action in order to enhance safety for the public."

"I want to make sure that all the crossings are safe and they're inspected in order to safeguard our citizens here in Miami-Dade County," Gimenez told CBS4 News.

Those hit by the trains have tried to beat them across the track. Boynton Beach police released a video that was edited to stop, just before a bicyclist tried to outrun the train and was killed. Those trying to beat the locomotives are accustomed to freight trains lumbering slowly along the tracks, not the rocketing Brightline.

"They're used to seeing that train far off and think they have all this time when, in fact, they don't," Gimenez said.

There are also near-misses.

A cell phone video shot by motorist Geoff West and shared with the Miami Herald shows a pickup truck going around backed up traffic at a crossing, around the crossing arms that are down, and racing across the track.

"Look at this guy. Look at him!" a woman in the car can be heard exclaiming. The truck avoided being hit by a fraction of a second. The Brightline trains travel at nearly 80 miles per hour.

Gimenez says there needs to be a public awareness blitz. Brightline was apparently reading his mind, issuing a statement saying "we are working on a new (media) campaign and increased community outreach, like safety ambassadors and message boards at crossings." Brightline said it will have all of the public service announcements airing, workers distributing safety pamphlets at crossings, and message boards operating before it begins service in Miami-Dade.

Not just Miami-Dade is concerned about Brightline safety. It promises to become a federal case.

Both of Florida's U.S. senators, Democrat Bill Nelson and Republican Marco Rubio, have asked the United States Department of Transportation to assess the speedy trains' operations. Miami-Dade Congresswoman Frederica Wilson has made a similar request.

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