The Sun Sentinel: When will train horns be silenced on South Florida coastal tracks?

Posted on June 22, 2015

By Angel Streeter

Railroad quiet zones will hit South Florida coastal tracks in 2017.

Massive effort to get trains silenced on coastal railroad tracks once new passenger service begins.

Residents who live near coastal railroad tracks that run near Federal Highway may be wondering when they are going to get some peace and quiet.

The freight trains running on South Florida’s eastern railroad are blaring louder horns. And All Aboard Florida, which will provide new passenger sevice on the railroad between Miami and Orlando, is in the middle of constructing a second track and working on railroad crossings.

Q: So when will that peace and quiet come?

A: To prepare for All Aboard Florida’s 32 daily trains, officials in Broward and Palm Beach counties have been working together to create so-called “quiet zones” so train engineers won’t sound their horns as they get close to railroad crossings unless there’s an emergency. But it’s going to take a while to get them established and approved by the Federal Railroad Administration.

Q: When will quiet zones be established on the coastal tracks?

A: Both transportation planning agencies — the Broward Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization — estimate that quiet zones will be established around the same time All Aboard Florida begins carrying passengers on its new service in 2017 between Miami and West Palm Beach.

Initial quiet zones will be implemented from West Palm Beach to Hallandale Beach.

Once All Aboard Florida begins offering service to Orlando, quiet zones will be established in northern Palm Beach County.

Q: Why can’t they do it sooner?

A: It’s a lengthy process. First, safety improvements have to be made at railroad crossings. The two transportation-planning agencies have reached agreements with All Aboard Florida to add those safety improvements as part of its construction work. The agencies will pay the company for the extra safety enhancements with federal transportation money.

After the safety features have been added to crossings, then applications are sent to the Federal Railroad Administration to create quiet zones. In addition to reviewing the applications, the railroad agency will visit the area to inspect the crossings.

“This is a significant project for us,” said Greg Stuart, executive director of the Broward transportation agency.

Q: Who’s applying for the quiet zones?

A: In Broward, Hollywood will be the leader with other cities — Hallandale Beach, Dania Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Wilton Manors, Oakland Park, Pompano Beach and Deerfield Beach — signing on along with Broward County and the Florida Department of Transportation.

In Palm Beach, seven cities — Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Hypoluxo, Lantana, Lake Worth, West Palm Beach — will submit separate applications to the railroad administration to create quiet zones in each of their cities.

Q: Why isn’t Palm Beach County banding together to create one, big quiet zone like Broward County?

A: Broward’s approach may be easier with only one application to be reviewed by the railroad administration rather than several, said Nick Uhren, executive director of the Palm Beach Metropolitan Planning Organization. But he’s not sure if the method will be OK with the railroad administration.

Plus, no city in Palm Beach County has stepped up to take a lead role in applying for quiet zones. The county also isn’t interested in being a leader, Uhren said.

That leaves the transportation planning agency “holding the hand of each city to get to the end goal of quiet-zone designation.”

And he’s hoping those quiet zones will be implemented in each city at the same time.

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