All Aboard Florida officials are quizzed on noise, vibration, delays.
City Council members quizzed officials of All Aboard Florida on Thursday night about safety and noise concerns, as the train company prepares for rail service shooting through the suburban city at speeds in excess of 90 miles per hour.
The hour-and-a-half-long work session, attended by about 75 residents, drew out fears of ambulance delays, long and loud freight trains and unknown costs the city might have to foot if additional safety devices are required for crossings in areas that win “Quiet Zone” designation.
The All Aboard Florida officials passed on most questions about freight service, saying that was the purview of their sister company, the Florida East Coast Railway. But many of the council members’ comments and questions focused on concerns that increased freight from ports, resulting from the expansion of the Panama Canal, would put longer, higher and heavier trains on rails than the mile-long trains that already tie up South Florida traffic.
The officials said the freight containers could be stacked, so the trains might not be longer. But that led to a question about whether existing walls meant to block noise would no longer be high enough. And if they’re stacked, Council Member David Levy asked, does that mean they’ll be heavier and double the intensity of vibration through the surrounding area?
The city will have to invite FEC officials in for answers, he concluded.
Others asked about whether the double set of rails being installed would enable the track to qualify as either a “sealed” corridor or “Quiet Zone.” Because of the speed trains would run, the corridor would likely be considered sealed, meaning extra safety measures would be installed at crossings.
The city would have to apply to the federal government if it wanted Quiet Zone designation, the officials said. A Quiet Zone is one in which severe limits are put on where and how often trains can blow their horns.
Council Member Marcie Tinsley and other council members made clear that they wanted the whole city to be declared a Quiet Zone. “We are tired of listening to the horn,” Tinsley said.
Member Eric Jablin asked why the same sound walls used for highways would not be installed along the railroad tracks.
The All Aboard Florida officials said those walls are installed under a government program intended for highways, not railroads, and he wasn’t aware of any alternative programs.
As for concerns about ambulances, the All Aboard Florida officials said their 90-110 mph trains would be through each crossing in 60 seconds. Public safety agencies and hospitals would get training in the schedules and other information needed to limit delays, they said.
Member Joe Russo urged the railway officials to work harder at communicating their plans, if they want the public aboard.
“Unfortunately, no one trusts what you’re doing,” Russo said. “If we can’t stop you, we want to work with you to make it the best can it can be. ... This is a communication thing, and you need to make everybody feel better about this. You all can make it better by having all the answers to the questions.”