The TC Palm – Mechanical issue on St. Lucie River railroad bridge causes train, boat delays

Posted on December 15, 2014

Lisa Broadt


STUART — A glitch with the St. Lucie River train bridge’s locking mechanism Friday delayed a freight train and some boaters for about an hour.


About 1 p.m., an approximately mile long Florida East Coast Railway freight train was forced to stop north of the trestle bridge that spans the St. Lucie River while an engineer attempted to fix the problem.


“The bridge did not lock automatically as designed. It had to be manually locked and unlocked,” said Florida East Coast Railway spokeswoman Debra Phillips.


The bridge was working properly by 2 p.m. Several engineers were on site and the bridge “continues to operate correctly now,” Phillips said Friday afternoon.


Local officials for months have worried about the functionality of the century-old drawbridge — particularly in light of All Aboard Florida’s proposed 32 daily train passenger rail service — but this incident is not an indication of future problems, Phillips said.


The failure was caused by a mechanical part, which will be replaced, Phillips said.


“The last inspection did not indicate that part was going to need to be replaced,” she said. The most recent inspection took place last month. Phillips said she did not know of similar mechanical errors in the past.


Earlier Friday, about a dozen boats waited for an hour while an engineer attempted to repair the drawbridge malfunction.


The engineer walked back and forth across the bridge and under the trestle numerous time, said Bill Baillie, a captain with HMY Yachts in Stuart, who was waiting for the bridge to open.


“I bet he did that easily eight to 10 times,” Baillie added. “He was on the phone, then he made another pass at it.”


The train did not block any intersection in downtown Stuart, according to Stuart Police Captain Steve Graff.


As one of the only single-tracked sections of rail, the bridge allows only one passenger or freight train to cross at a time — a subject of concern for many Martin County officials.


All Aboard Florida, a private subsidiary of Florida East Coast Industries, plans to begin high-speed passenger-rail service in 2016, running through the Treasure Coast on its way from Miami to Orlando.


Martin Metropolitan Planning Organization Director Beth Beltran said she worries about wear and tear on the bridge from nearly tripled train traffic, backed up boat traffic from more frequent bridge closures and possible automobile traffic delays that could be caused by waiting trains blocking intersections.


Local officials say just one freight train, stopped downtown waiting for a passenger train crossing the single-track St. Lucie River rail drawbridge, could block all six of Stuart’s rail and road intersections, from Joan Jefferson Way to Monterey Road

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