BEFORE ALL ABOARD FLORIDA, OFFICIALS WANT MILES-LONG QUIET ZONE

Publish Date: 
Monday, October 5, 2015 - 9:45am

PALM BEACH POST

When All Aboard Florida starts running its express passenger service along the Florida East Coast Railway tracks, Palm Beach County officials want to make sure the company won’t be required to sound train horns at rail intersections from Boca Raton to West Palm Beach.

Officials with seven local cities and towns are working to establish a continuous quiet zone to silence train horns along the FEC tracks, from the Palm Beach-Broward County line north to 15th Street in West Palm Beach. Once established, both passenger and freight trains would no longer be required to sound their horns at rail crossings in that area.

Leaders in Miami Dade and Broward counties are taking similar steps — a move that will ultimately allow the quiet zone to stretch roughly 70 miles from PortMiami to West Palm Beach.

Transportation planners in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties have set aside more than $12 million to cover additional upgrades that are also needed for the quiet zone.

Cities and towns are working to secure the necessary approvals to establish the zones before All Aboard Florida begins service in 2017. Under the plan, horns would be silenced when the company launches its passenger service.

In Palm Beach County, All Aboard has several crews clearing brush to make way for a second set of tracks along the corridor. Workers have already installed sections of the new line at several intersections in West Palm Beach.

In the coming months, the company will begin upgrading rail signals and crossing arms at railroad intersections.

Meanwhile, county transportation planners met with officials from the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and the Federal Railroad Administration last month to review safety upgrades planned along the tracks.

“Our feedback from the FRA staff is that all the improvements appear appropriate, all the calculations appear accurate, and the local governments can proceed with the establishment of quiet zones,” said Kim Delaney, the director of strategic development and policy for the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council.

Jeffrey Livergood, Boynton Beach’s director of public works and engineering, said the quiet zone will also make rail crossings safer for drivers and pedestrians.

Sidewalks with railroad gates will also be added at some rail crossings, providing additional safety for pedestrians, Livergood added.

“A quiet zone’s goal is to take the place of a train horn and to remove the train horn and replace it with other measures,” Livergood said. “Whether you are a local Boynton Beach resident, or whether you are a visitor, it certainly improves safety.”

Before governments can establish a quiet zone, they must issue a “notice of intent.” The declaration is followed by a public comment period, after which local governments can issue a “notice of establishment.”

Palm Beach County’s Metropolitan Planning Organization has pledged $6.6 million to help cover the cost of the quiet zones. That money will come from federal gas tax revenues. All Aboard has agreed to construct and design the quiet zone improvements in Palm Beach County at the same time it completes its safety upgrades, resulting in significant savings for taxpayers, county officials have said.