Recent news has suggested that the legislature failed to authorize the Central Florida commuter rail over ubiquitous “liability issues”. Closer inspection reveals much more behind the scenes that call into question the fairness of the proposed commuter rail provisions in the the legislation. A great article on this subject including a discussion of potential profits and conflicts of interest by legislators trying to push the current terms of the legislation can be found in a recent Tampa Tribune editorial.
While I am certainly a backer of much needed public transportation in Central Florida, there are many items that do not pass the smell test. The issue I am most familiar with is liability and so I will address it here although it is not the biggest problem with the current proposed deal with the railroad. In fact the entire deal poses questions such as the fairness of a deal to “buy 61 miles of track for $650 million, though the railroad would use the tracks at night and during off-peak hours.”
As far as liability, the railroad wants 100% immunity (with the tab to be picked up by us taxpayers) for all liability for all negligent acts from any accident on or near the tracks, including accidents caused by the freight trains that have nothing to do with the commuter rail. We cannot forget that the railroads immunity translates into payments by the taxpayer for wrongs committed by the railroad.
We need commuter rail but we do not need to jeapordize our safety or our pocketbooks in a deal that seems to benefit special interests more than it does commuters. More debate and a more open negotiation should result in a commuter rail that is more fair to the taxpayer and more safe for our citizens.