Legislation pending in Florida's Senate would put taxpayers on the hook for damages caused by Amtrak, drawing the ire of some who consider it a giveaway to the passenger train company, the Miami Herald reports.
Already, the state gives a similar protection to freight rail operator CSX. The legislation, which has already passed in the House, would give protections to Amtrak's operations on rail lines in South Florida. An Amtrak attorney told the Herald that the rail operator is essentially asking the state to purchase insurance to cover its accidents on those lines. The paper cites a New York Times analysis from 2004 that found Amtrak had paid more than $186 million over the previous two decades due to accidents blamed mostly on others. Amtrak doesn't own its tracks. In Florida, CSX owns much of the tracks that Amtrak pays to use. In 2002, the Herald reports that Amtrak paid damages for an accident in Florida that killed four people, even though investigators found problems with the CSX track. But there's some controversy over part of the bill that would shield Amtrak, even if it's at fault.