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Quiet zones won't be ready for Brightline's launch next week

Posted at 3:59 PM, Jan 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-02 20:31:14-05

Get ready for Brightline. The high-speed rail is set to begin service between West Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale the week of Jan. 8.

Commuters are excited but some residents -- not so much.

That's because the quiet zones aren't expected to be completed until four to six months from now.

Matt Waterman has a love/hate relationship with the train tracks near his downtown West Palm Beach apartment.

On the one hand, he's excited to use Brightline to commute to work.

"Working in a Miami-based business, it's nice to be able to commute," he said. "Brightline's a very exciting thing for us living in West Palm Beach."

But on the other hand, the train horns are driving him crazy.

Waterman showed video he shot just two days ago from his balcony. In it, you can hear train horns blaring through downtown in the middle of the day for at least 10 seconds.

"People need to see this, people need to hear it," he said. "While I am here working from home a lot of the time, it's annoying to hear the horns blast through eight to 10 times a day with freight trains." 

On Sunday, the city of West Palm Beach announced the quiet zones along a five-mile stretch in city limits won't be ready for another four to six months.

Until then, both passenger and freight trains will have to continue to sound their horns through intersections by law.

"It's a little bit too much. I'm OK with noise. I live in a city. But I feel like even people in New York City don't have as much noise as we have in West Palm," said Waterman.

A Brightline spokesperson told WPTV that all safety upgrades required for service are in place. However, for a quiet zone to be operational, additional safety measures still need to be installed at several crossings.

While Brightline says it is working with the city to finish the quiet zones, Waterman said his patience is wearing thin.

"I wish the city would put a little more pressure for those changes to be made," he said.

Brightline clarified that quiet zones are the responsibility of the city to implement, not the railroad.

The city said in a news release that implementing a quiet zone is a process. The steps being undertaken by the City and our partners include the following:

• The city worked with the PBTPA to identify supplemental safety improvements at key crossings in our city. The city is grateful to the PBTPA for securing the funding for these improvements.
• Brightline is expected to complete infrastructure improvements to key crossings in our City by this spring. 
• Once completed, the city will inspect these improvements and submit findings to the FRA and other organizations. 
• 21 days after the city files these documents, the city can officially issue a Notice of Establishment for the quiet zone.
• This entire process takes approximately four to six months during which time train engineers will continue to blow their horns per federal regulations.

“Once implemented, this quiet zone will go a long way toward improving the quality of life of our residents,” said West Palm Beach Assistant City Administrator Scott Kelly in a statement. “We ask the public to be patient at this time, as the quiet zone is coming.” 

According to the Federal Railroad Administration, locomotive engineers are required to sound train horns at least 15 seconds and no more than 20 seconds in advance of all public grade crossings. However, localities have an opportunity to mitigate the effects of train horn noise by establishing quiet zones. In a quiet zone, railroads are not required to sound their horns when approaching public highway-rail grade crossings. Train horns may still be used in emergency situations or to comply with other federal regulations or railroad operating rules.

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