Martin County would rearrange emergency service to mitigate All Aboard Florida dangers
Posted on February 2, 2016
By Lisa Broadt
The Martin County Sheriff's Office likely would rearrange its zones of service to provide lifesaving services on both sides of the railroad tracks should All Aboard Florida begin Brightline passenger rail service through the Treasure Coast.
Sheriff William Snyder has long decried the dangers posed by increased rail traffic, and, in particular, the possibility that first responders could be delayed trying to reach scenes or hospitals.
"It's not so much that people are afraid they're going to get hit by trains — people know if you stop at the train bars you'll be OK — but people want reassurance they're not going to be cut off when seconds matter," Snyder said. "A fire, a child being abducted from a school, a heart attack. You can just go down the list."
Follow the tracks | All Aboard Florida timeline
All Aboard Florida officials on Tuesday said improved track infrastructure would mitigate delays caused by Brightline.
The company pointed to a rail-traffic study, commissioned last year by Indian River County, that indicates delays caused by Brightline could be shorter than they currently are with only freight-train traffic along the corridor.
For Snyder, the St. Lucie River train bridge is of particular concern.
Together, Brightline and freight trains from Florida East Coast Railway — the sister companies would share the existing tracks — could force up to 50 daily closures of the 75-year-old drawbridge. It takes about 20 minutes to open and close the bridge, and most boats cannot pass under the low-clearance bridge when it's closed, according to Martin County.
"All of the waterways we patrol could be cut off. I have to be very cognizant of that and keep a boat west at all times," Snyder said.
For the time being, however, the Sheriff's Office is monitoring All Aboard Florida's progress, not taking action.
"My sense is that the rail is not imminent right now. If it does become imminent, then we will start addressing the concerns," Snyder said.
Last year, Snyder and sheriffs Ken Mascara, St. Lucie County, and Deryl Loar, Indian River County, released an open letter warning the public of All Aboard Florida's potential dangers.
Construction of the $3.1 billion passenger railroad already has begun between Miami and West Palm Beach. Passenger service there is to begin in early 2017, with full service — through the Treasure Coast and on to Orlando International Airport — beginning in late 2017.