Brightline tests train speeds ahead of travel between South Florida and Orlando

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Brightline tests train speeds ahead of travel between South Florida and Orlando

As Brightline began final tests in Brevard County on the company’s high-speed train that will connect Orlando to South Florida, authorities revived warnings to drivers due to a recent crash.

Along South 21st Avenue and Harrison Street in Hollywood, neighbors brace everything long train horns blow.

“I kind of close my eyes and wait for the bang,” Rob Budowsky, who works nearby said.  “Sure enough, (Thursday evening) I heard a bang.”

That collision between a high-speed train and Broward County bus put one transit driver in an ambulance.  A spokesperson for Broward County Transit said that driver went to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.  Five other passengers refused medical attention, the spokesperson said.

“I ran toward the front of the bus when I saw the train coming,” one passenger who did not want to be identified said.

What one witness saw another driver do before the crash reinforced warnings spreading around Brightline’s expanding footprint.

“I’m a fan of the Brightline and I wish people would get the message,” Budowsky said.

The company began testing trains up to 110 miles an hour near Melbourne.  Authorities plan to have flaggers at 41 crossings during the tests.  However, they expect people to heed warning signs to prevent crashes.

“If you don’t obey the signage, it’s a $209 fine with three points on your driver’s license,” David Waltemeyer, Deputy Chief of Melbourne Police.

Crashes involving trains on Brightline’s existing service routes in Miami, Aventura and Fort Lauderdale frustrate Federeco Collres who lives in an apartment next to the railroad tracks in Hollywood.

When as if more or bigger signs would help improve safety, Collres said, “No. (Drivers) don’t care, not really.  Somebody should be there like a police officer or something like that.”

In the crash Thursday, witnesses said a pickup truck tried to beat a red light and blocked the path of the bus as it tried crossing the intersection.

“(The pickup) could have moved,” a witness who did not want to be identified said.  “The lady was blowing the horn on the bus and I knocked on (the driver’s) window.  But she didn’t move until that crash.”

Earlier in the week, Brightline urged drivers to pay close attention to warning signs.

“It takes a Brightline train a mile to stop,” Katie Mitzner, Brightline Director of Public Affairs said.  “Once you see a Brightline train coming it’s too late.  You need to follow the laws at all times around railroad crossings and stay off the tracks.”