By Scott Gunnerson, FLORIDA TODAY
Transportation officials will take a closer look at railroad crossings in Brevard County this month as plans for high-speed train service between Miami and Orlando move forward. The re-introduction of passenger trains along the Florida East Coast Railway will require additional track and upgrades of more than 50 road crossings.
Representatives from All Aboard Florida, Florida East Coast Railway, the Florida Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration will examine each crossing, starting in Micco on July 16 and finishing in north Cocoa on July 18.
The group will inspect crossings to determine what needs to be done during construction in terms of safety, upgrades and modifications. City or county officials responsible for each roadway have been invited to participate.
Elia Twigg, Palm Bay public works director, expects to be at the Port Malabar Boulevard, Palm Bay Road and Hessey Avenue crossings with questions about the project.
She is concerned about the timing and scope of construction as well as its impact on Palm Bay.
“This will affect us, and I want to know a little more about what is going on and ask them questions,” Twigg said. “We are still not very clear on what they are doing.”
City and county officials as well as residents have expressed concern about the amount of noise train-warning systems will produce in neighborhoods and downtown areas along the route with 32 daily trains proposed for the route through Brevard.
Trains must sound horns 15 to 20 seconds before crossing a public road, according to federal regulations.
A rise in train-vehicle collisions in the 1980s forced the Federal Railroad Administration in 1991 to eliminate whistle bans that had been imposed by cities and towns along the Florida East Coast Railway. However, municipalities can create “quiet zones” at crossings by installing extra safety equipment.
All Aboard Florida has agreed to pay for necessary changes to railroad crossings to meet federal standards and expects those improvements will partially satisfy quiet-zone requirements.
The company has offered to provide engineering, bidding and construction management for work on quiet-zone crossings during the initial construction phase.
The remaining costs and requirement to create quiet zones will fall on the governments with jurisdiction over the roadways.
The Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization has contracted a consultant to determine where quiet zones are an option in Brevard County and what they would cost.
The TPO hopes the $20,000 analysis by Kittelson & Associates Inc. will help local governments decide whether to upgrade to quiet zones.
“There will be cost savings in having all this work done at once, buying all the equipment en masse and having it all installed as one project at one time,” said Bob Kamm, executive director of the Space Coast Transportation Planning Organization.
“As FEC is doing its improvements, it is willing to tack on the additional work necessary to do a quiet zone and manage the entire job,” said Kamm.