MCTA: Martin County should plan for alternate rail crossing

Posted on March 25, 2016

By Richard Geisinger

Last week's events on the Florida East Coast Railway tracks provided a glimpse of what can happen when there is an accident on the rail line. Two lives were lost.

A freight train collided with a truck, and the individuals in the truck were killed. As a result of the March 15 accident, the crossings were closed for more than four hours between Indian Street and Cove Road.

If the train was longer (as predicted for future freight trains), the crossings could have been affected from the St. Lucie River all the way to Cove Road. Add to that the fact that FEC could have been carrying hazardous materials, and we have a perfect storm getting ready to happen.

The Martin County Taxpayers Association has been opposed to All Aboard Florida and increased rail traffic and has been an advocate for planning mitigation to help counteract the increased train traffic. Whether or not All Aboard Florida or Brightline, as it now called, is successful, we must have an alternative way to cross the tracks.

Planning an overpass or underpass does not happen overnight. We have been given plenty of notice that the freight traffic is going to pick up, along with the number of trains and the length of the trains. It is time to have a conversation about alternatives.

Martin County recently performed a study on a majority of its real property holdings, and we do not believe the idea of an underpass or overpass was even mentioned. Not surprising since the experts were from out of the area. It is virtually impossible to know what a community needs when you do not work or live in the community.

As it stands, Martin County owns property on the northeast corner of Indian Street and the FEC corridor. Additionally, Martin County owns property on the northeast and southeast corners of Monterey Road and the FEC.

Both of these intersections have potential for some sort of underpass or overpass. If we do not begin to look at this seriously, we will be reacting instead of being proactive. Reactive behavior historically costs more and is much less efficient.

We cannot afford to put our community at risk if there is a horrific train accident with no way out. Minutes become critical when you have had a heart attack, stroke or been in an accident.

We urge the county to take the lead on this very important issue. It owns the land and has the staff to begin the study.

It's possible we could get ahead of the curve if we begin to act now. Crossings will be blocked and delays will happen. Property values are certain to decline due to the simple fact that there will be additional freight trains (notwithstanding the passenger trains).

If we can mitigate this problem, we will all be safer and our quality of life, although diminished, won't be disastrous.

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