The TC Palm: St. Lucie County examines updated All Aboard Florida track plans

Posted on May 18, 2015

Lisa Broadt

All Aboard Florida could begin track construction work on the Treasure Coast by late summer, and in St. Lucie County, that work would include upgrades to most of its ground-level crossings, according to tentative engineering plans presented to the County Commission earlier this week.


Over the past two months, All Aboard has provided Treasure Coast governments with nearly-complete engineering plans — All Aboard says the plans are “90-percent” finished. The plans clarify changes to crossings, medians and turn lanes that would be made as the rail company prepares the infrastructure needed to run 32 daily train trips between Miami and Orlando.


All Aboard expects to have final track plans sometime in June, according to Vice President Rusty Roberts, who presented the information to St. Lucie commissioners and staff during a special meeting Tuesday.


Eighteen of 24 crossings along the 22 miles of track in St. Lucie County could be enhanced with infrastructure and operating system upgrades, including:


Exit gates: Pairs of gates that block the train corridor from both sides of the tracks. Typically the gate closures are staggered to prevent trapping a vehicle on the tracks. Exit gates could be installed at St. Lucie Lane and Rouse; and Torpey and Milton roads, all in St. Lucie Village.


Traffic divider: A raised median or other barrier on the road leading up to the crossing that prevents drivers — stopped at the tracks by a lowered gate — from crossing into the opposing lane to circumvent the gate and “beat” the oncoming train. Dividers could be used at Harbor Branch Road near Florida Atlantic University and Savannah; and Midway and Walton roads in Fort Pierce.


Pre-emption: A signal system that pre-empts typical traffic light patterns — similar to the systems used by emergency responders — to reduce the possibility that a car could get stuck on the tracks.


Traditionally, the technology is integrated into the train management system or controlled remotely from the rail system’s headquarters. Pre-emption could be combined with existing medians at Chamberlin Boulevard in St. Lucie Village and City Causeway, Seaway Drive, Avenue A and Orange Avenue in Fort Pierce.


An exit gate and traffic divider combination is being considered for County Line Road, which separates St. Lucie and Martin counties.


All Aboard would upgrade the mid-portion of the existing double-track Taylor Bridge and would build new, double-track bridges adjacent to the existing single-track Avenue C and Moore’s Creek bridge, according to the plans.


But, according to Commissioner Paula Lewis, one unknown still looms for St. Lucie County: Quiet zones, or portions of track where the safety upgrades negate the need for a train to sound its horn.

“We haven’t decided yet,” Lewis said.


Quiet zone requirements are set by the Federal Railroad Administration and would be paid for primarily by local government.


Should St. Lucie pursue quiet zones, it would work with its metropolitan planning organization, the Treasure Coast Regional Planning Council and state and federal officials, said Kim DeLaney, planning council strategy director.


Quieting the train horns of existing Florida East Coast Railway trains — the freight company would share its tracks with All Aboard, its sister company — has become a pressing issue since December when Florida East Coast added new locomotives to its fleet with horns that have elicited a slew of noise complaints.

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