WEST PALM BEACH – City leaders in West Palm Beach are calling for the construction of more than 39 “quiet zones” when trains start running under the All Aboard Florida project.
But Mayor Jeri Muoio and commissioners say they don’t have the $5 million needed to pay for the work and they want the state to pick up the tab.
One state senator’s answer is for the high-speed rail, due to start operating in 2015, to come up with the money. A “quiet zone” railroad crossing is one where an oncoming train does not sound its horn as it approaches so as to not disturb nearby residents.
Currently, every time a train passes through one of the crossings in the city it blows its horn to warn drivers and pedestrians. As of now, the only trains running through the neighborhoods are occasional freight trains. But when All Aboard Florida is operational, the number of trains will rise significantly.
“There will be an increase in noise,” said Elliott Cohen, West Palm Beach’s communications director. To alleviate the noise nuisance, additional safety equipment has to be installed at the gates. Muoio says the city doesn’t have the money for the upgrade.
“We, as a municipality, can’t afford it,” she said. “It’s a concern for every neighborhood… wherever there’s a crossing.” The West Palm Beach City Commission recently approved a resolution calling on the state to pay for the quiet zones.
According to the commission’s resolution, quiet zones are needed at “all affected municipal railroad crossings in order to mitigate the impacts of increased railroad traffic and railroad noise and to protect the health, safety and welfare of the city’s residents and visitors.”
All Aboard Florida was originally slated to start operating in 2014 but that has been pushed back to late 2015. The proposed service will connect Miami with Orlando with stops in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and Cocoa, a roughly 240-mile route. Start-up costs are estimated at $1 billion and the trains will run on the Florida East Coast (FEC) tracks.
State Sen. Jeff Clemens, D-Palm Beach, said he will ask All Aboard Florida to pick up the tab for creating the quiet zones. “I believe that the All Aboard Florida folks have a responsibility to alleviate some of those problems,” Clemens said at a recent West Palm Beach City Hall meeting, according to news reports.
“This is a profit-maker for them,” Clemens added. “Not only the train route but the fact that they own all the right-of-way along that way means there will be money to be made for the company that’s pushing this. So that being the case, I think in order to make sure that the project moves forward and they realize those profits, I am hoping that they will be willing to share some of those profits.”