Train horns still blow­ing: Quiet zones not fully set

South Florida Sun-Sentinel (Sunday) - - Local - By Wayne K. Rous­tan

The New Year will ar­rive be­fore quiet zones do.

Train horns were to be si­lenced across South Florida once the last of the re­quired sup­ple­men­tal safety mea­sures were in­stalled at about 200 rail­road cross­ings be­tween Mi­ami and West Palm Beach along the Florida East Coast rail­road tracks that run par­al­lel to Dixie High­way.

Those safety mea­sures are de­signed to pre­vent peo­ple and ve­hi­cles from go­ing un­der or around the rail­road cross­ing gates when they are closed as a train ap­proaches.

These quiet zones were ex­pected to be in place be­fore Bright­line higher-speed pas­sen­ger trains be­gan ser­vice in Jan­uary, then by spring, then sum­mer, then this month.

“So here we are com­ing up to an­other dead­line that was go­ing to pro­vide us with ‘No Train Horns,’” said Steve Cole­man, a Fort Lauderdale res­i­dent who’s fed up with the rail­road racket. “What gives?”

In Palm Beach County, quiet zones took ef­fect at cross­ings south of West Palm Beach when the last of the FEC safety up­grades were com­pleted in Boyn­ton Beach in Au­gust.

In Broward County, sim­i­lar im­prove­ments are be­ing com­pleted but the Fed­eral Rail­road Ad­mi­nis-

tra­tion and the cities the tracks run through have to ap­prove the up­grades. Then, in­struc­tions have to be re­layed to all train en­gi­neers, said Paul Cal­varesi, with the Broward Metropoli­tan Plan­ning Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

“We’re look­ing to get [quiet zones im­ple­mented] as close to the New Year as pos­si­ble,” he said.

In Mi­ami-Dade County, quiet zones are in place be­tween PortMi­ami and North­east 79th Street but it will be at least an­other three months be­fore an un­re­lated road con­struc­tion project is com­pleted near the tracks be­tween North­east 125th and 135th streets and the county com­mis­sion ap­proves the rest of the quiet zones in north Mi­ami-Dade.

“We don’t have a date as of yet,” said Jen­nie Lopez, in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer with the Mi­ami-Dade De­part­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Pub­lic Works.

“By fed­eral law, we can­not move for­ward with the quiet zone un­til that con­struc­tion project is com­plete and the cross­ing is rein­spected,” she said.

Even when all quiet zones are in place, there will still be times when train horns will sound.

En­gi­neers will sound their horns any­time a pedes­trian or ve­hi­cle is on the tracks, when con­struc­tion or main­te­nance crews are work­ing near the tracks, or when­ever a train passes through a sta­tion with­out stop­ping.

For ex­am­ple, freight trains run­ning on the FEC tracks will con­tinue to sound their horns once as they pass through Bright­line sta­tions in Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach to warn pas­sen­gers that might be stand­ing on the sta­tion plat­form.

Like­wise, Am­trak pas­sen­ger trains trav­el­ing along the CSX tracks west of In­ter­state 95 would sound their horns once when pass­ing through any of the dozen Tri-Rail sta­tions where Am­trak doesn’t stop.

Am­trak stops in Mi­ami, Hol­ly­wood, Fort Lauderdale, Deer­field Beach, Del­ray Beach and West Palm Beach.

Broward’s quiet zone im­ple­men­ta­tion was de­layed by a num­ber of fac­tors with the lat­est be­ing the build­ing, ship­ping, and in­stal­la­tion of larger gate-house boxes to con­trol quad-gates that close on both sides of a rail­road cross­ing.

There are 39 quiet zones at Tri-Rail cross­ings in Broward and Palm Beach coun­ties, so far. The re­main­ing cross­ings would be­come quiet when the proper sig­nage is in­stalled at cross­roads, in­spec­tions are done, and en­gi­neers are in­formed.

There are up to 32 Bright­line trains and more than a dozen freight trains that blast their horns four times at ev­ery cross­ing, each day and night.

WAYNE K. ROUS­TAN/SUN SENTINEL

Train en­gi­neers will no longer be re­quired to blow their horns at ev­ery rail­road cross­ing in South Florida in 2019, of­fi­cials said.

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