STUART, Fla. — The city of Stuart and the village of Tequesta are looking to Martin County to file a quiet zone application, which would give conductors the option to not blow a train horn.
The special designation, coming from the Department of Transportation, is a dream for Lindie and Al Pulvirenti. The couple said they hear 125 train horns a week, which makes it hard to sleep or enjoy life outside.
"We'd like to be outside, might be sitting around a fire pit, enjoying time with friends. Our children want to be outside playing," Lindie Pulvirenti said, "but because of those train horns nobody wants to go outside, so we're forced to be indoors."
The Pulvirentis said the amount of horns increasing due to traffic has created a burden.
"It is now the frequency of it," Lindie Pulvirenti said. "It is now so frequent that it is affecting our enjoyment of peaceful living."
WPTV reporter Ethan Stein heard at least eight train horns during a 20-minute conversation with the Pulvirentis on Tuesday night. The house also shook as trains moved past their home.
"Deafining," Al Pulvirenti said about the horns. "I'm going to have to get a hearing test. That's how loud this is. I just think of little kids or people walking downtown."
The Pulvirentis said they support the need for high-speed trains, like Brightline. But, they just want to hear fewer horns.
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According to the Department of Transportation, federal law requires train engineers to sound a horn at least 15 seconds in advance of all public crossings. If the train is moving faster than 60 mph, then the horn will go off within a quarter-mile of the crossing.
The couple believes the solution is a "quiet zone," which is a status where train operators would have the option to not blow a horn. Municipalities have to apply for this status.
An official with the city of Stuart said most of its intersections don't qualify to become a quiet zone, so it is waiting for Martin County to submit its application to decrease train horns.
Emails that WPTV received from the village of Tequesta show the village was also looking toward Martin County to see if it would apply for a quiet zone.
"Our Council is considering applying for a quiet zone now that the railroad is moving, but they have asked me to seek out what Martin County intends to do," a letter written to Martin County Administrator Don Donaldson said.
Jeremy Allen, who is the village manager for Tequesta, said the village has three railroad crossings. He said one is governed by Martin County and the other is governed by the county of Jupiter, which means a "quiet zone" application filed by Tequesta might not create a significant difference if the other entities don't also file the application.
"The Village of Tequesta is uniquely situated and adjacent to two other jurisdictions," Allen wrote in an email. "Tequesta is bordered to the North by Martin County and to the South by Town of Jupiter."
He also said a workshop is scheduled regarding the quiet zone issue on Dec. 4.
A spokesperson for the town of Jupiter said the council began the process to get a designated quiet zone in December 2022.
Don Donaldson, the county administrator for Martin County, said the county doesn't plan on requesting quiet zones for at least a year to perform a safety review, an email to the village of Tequesta said. He said if no review occurred, it would be a disservice to people in Martin County.
"Our intent for the crossings under our jurisdiction is to monitor the safety of our public for one year (until September 2024) and track any issues that may occur, of which we hope there are none," Donaldson wrote in an email. "We then will evaluate which crossings should be converted to quiet zones based on the data that we capture during the one-year period."
He said the county has worked with Brightline to upgrade the safety features at crossings to make them eligible for quiet zones in the future. Donaldson said he also believes people need to get used to high-speed trains before it requests quiet zones.
"Sounding of horns is an important safety measure to make residents crossing the FEC (Florida East Coast Railway) right of way be aware of an incoming train," he said. "We realize that this safety measure can be a nuisance to the residents who purchased homes or choose to recreate near the tracks, but initially the value of the safety measure outweighs the inconvenience until we see how our public handles the faster and more frequent trains."
WPTV tried to contact Donaldson and Brightline late Tuesday night but didn't receive a comment from either by publication deadline.