Sarasota state representative is questioned by U.S. senators.

Safety issues and regional concerns about train service were the dominant themes Wednesday during public questioning by U.S. senators of Sarasota state Rep. Joe Gruters, who is seeking to join the Amtrak board.

Gruters and two other individuals nominated by President Donald Trump for transportation-related appointments were questioned by members of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science & Transportation in Washington.

Safety is a pressing issue for the train service after a series of recent crashes. Gruters pledged in his opening statement that “safety will be my top priority.”

Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat, recounted the “horrific” Amtrak train derailment last year that killed three people during a trip from Seattle to Portland. Cantwell asked Gruters to help ensure Amtrak has a system called “positive train control” in place by the end of the year. The PTC technology can slow trains automatically.

“PTC is an important technology,” Gruters said. “I think it’s the most important issue facing Amtrak, and it needs to be the baseline, needs to be the standard.”

Gruters also was peppered with questions about supporting and enhancing regional train lines, including routes in the Southwest and Midwest and a Gulf Coast line that has been out of service. Amtrak’s Gulf Coast route was shut down after Hurricane Katrina, but some lawmakers in the region are hoping to revive it. They hope to establish a route from New Orleans to Orlando. Sen. Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, asked Gruters if he is committed to restoring the route.

Gruters says he hopes to “find a reasonable way to make this work.”

The cost of the route could be an issue. Wicker asked if Gruters views the service as economical.

“Do you have an opinion yet as to whether this is an economically viable route for Amtrak?” Wicker asked.

Gruters said that as a certified public accountant, finding “efficiencies” within Amtrak will be important for him. But he said that “as a Floridian” he would like to see the Gulf Coast route “put back into place.”

Amtrak is a passenger railroad company that is majority-owned by the federal government. It served 31.3 million customers in 2016, according to the company’s website. Its trains run to 500 destinations in 46 states.

Gruters co-chaired Trump’s winning Florida campaign. He does not have a background in transportation issues.

In introducing Gruters to the committee, U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney highlighted his experience as a CPA and service on various boards, including Florida State University’s board of trustees.

“Joe Gruters is well qualified to provide the oversight and leadership required of an Amtrak board member,” Rooney said.

The committee did not vote on Gruters’ nomination Wednesday and has yet to schedule a vote. If he makes it past the committee he must go before the full Senate for a vote.

The questions aimed at Gruters were not particularly aggressive, and there was nothing to indicate opposition to his appointment.